By Kirsty Needham
SYDNEY, April 12 (Reuters) – Australia wants exporters to diversify markets and become less reliant on China, because it cannot separate economic and strategic relationships, Foreign Minister Penny Wong said a day after the trade partners unveiled a path to ending a dispute.
Both nations have reached consensus to end their dispute over barley, they said on Tuesday, with Australia suspending a case at the World Trade Organization, while China hastens a review of tariffs on Australian exports.
“Making sure we do diversify our export markets is an important part of our national resilience,” Wong told Sky News in a television interview on Wednesday.
“And the government will continue to encourage that because we want to make sure we have diversified export markets.”
Trade worth A$285 billion a year continues with Australia’s major two-way trading partner, while thawing ties see Beijing wind back impediments placed on a raft of Australian commodity exports in 2020 amid a diplomatic dispute.
However, it was important to recognise the relationship between the two nations was “not going back to where we were 15 years ago”, Wong said in media interviews.
“We know that we want a more stable relationship with China, but we know we’re not going to be able to continue to separate our economic and our strategic relationship,” she told Nine’s Today Show.
As China operates as a “great power in the world”, it was inevitable there would be areas where Australia and China did not have the same interests, she added.
Wong called China’s recent military drills around Taiwan “destabilising”, adding, “We would urge de-escalation.”
“Australia’s position is, very clearly, no unilateral change to the status quo,” she told Sky News in the interview.