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Trade Minister looking for “constructive engagement” after US-China talks

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Dan Tehan, Minister for Trade, Tourism & Investment, says that Australia looks to build on the progress made by US President Joe Biden and People’s Republic of China (PRC) President Xi Jinping, in an interview with Bloomberg.

“Look, geopolitical tensions are there but I must say it was very good to see the two presidents be able to have a dialogue over the last 24 hours, and a very meaningful and significant dialogue, and that’s what Australia wants to be able to do with China itself,” Dan says.

On a visit to Singapore the Trade Minister said that the talks between Biden and Xi could provide an opening for conversations between Australia and the PRC – conversations which have been complicated owing to Australia’s criticisms of the PRC over its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as Australia’s support for the US on military questions.

“We are looking for constructive engagement,” Dan says. “We want to be able to work through our differences and our issues because we understand how important, especially our economic relationship is – it’s helped lift millions out of poverty in China, it’s helped us maintain our standard of living.”

The Minister also commented on the prospects of the PRC joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). The CPTPP is a trade agreement currently between 11 nations: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.

Dan says that if the PRC is to join the agreement it will have to observe the process currently in place for any country to join.

“[The CPTPP is an] incredibly important regional trade agreement,” Dan says. “It has the gold standards. I think it’s the best trade agreement in the world. So, we’ve made it very clear that any country that wants to accede to CPTPP would have to meet those gold standard rules.”

He notes that the UK is the first country outside of the original signatories attempting to join the agreement, and that its accession process “will set the guardrails for other economies to follow.”

In Singapore the Trade Minister also said that he expects bottlenecks and congestion at ports to affect supply chain in the Asia Pacific region for the next 12-18 months. He said that there will need to be more investment in the area to help alleviate some of the ongoing disruption.

“I think it’s something that all economies will need to deal with over time. We need to see more investing into global shipping. We obviously need to see more investment in our ports, both for landside of ports and the seaside of ports, to make sure that we can deal with some of that congestion.”

The full transcript of the interview can be read here

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