China must end a freeze on contacts with senior Australian politicians if it hopes to join a trans-Pacific trade pact, Canberra’s Trade Minister said on Wednesday, setting de facto preconditions for accession.
Dan Tehan linked China’s bid to join an 11-nation trading alliance with steps to improve bilateral relations that are at their lowest ebb in decades.
China formally applied to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) last week, and is lobbying to gain the consensus support of members, including Australia.
This comes after a war of words between the two countries, a string of sanctions on Australian goods and a months-long freeze on senior-level government contacts. “When I became Trade Minister, I wrote to my Chinese counterpart in January setting out how we can work more closely together. I am still waiting for a reply,” Mr. Tehan said in a Monday speech.
“One of the most important things about negotiating the accession process of any country into the CPTPP is that you have to be able to sit down at ministerial level, look your economic partner in the eye, and talk about that accession process.”
Mr. Tehan also indicated China would have to resolve disputes at the World Trade Organization stemming from a slew of politically driven sanctions on Australian imports.