Australia Trade Minister Dan Tehan snubbed by Chinese counterpart following series of trade disputes

Australia's Trade Minister says his new counterpart in China hasn't responded to his appeal to reopen dialogue following a series of trade disputes.

Dan Tehan, who became the minister after a Cabinet reshuffle on December 18, wrote to China's Commerce Minister Wang Wentao just over a week ago but is yet to hear back.

He is one of several Australian ministers who have tried to contact their Chinese counterparts but haven't had a response, according to ABC.

Beijing has hit Australia with tariffs of up to 200 percent on wine, as well as blocking or delaying some of the country's exports.

Tehan told Sky News he wrote to Wang because he thought since the pair started their new roles around the same time, it may be a good opportunity to break the standoff.

"I haven't had a reply, but it only went a week or so ago and was a very detailed letter," he said.

"My hope is that we can have a constructive dialogue. And that's why I was very keen to write to the new Minister. He was appointed within, I think, 24 or 48 hours to my appointment. So, I see an opportunity there. But, I'll wait patiently for a response."

But he says there are "many ways" Australia can "constructively engage with China" in its commercial relationship.

"It's built on extraordinary two-way trade. And, our trading relationship is very complementary. What we send to China, they need, what they send to us, you know, we need. And, our economies work very well like that."

Relations between Australia and China soured early in 2020 when Australia called for an inquiry into the origin of COVID-19. As a result, China added trade strikes of more than $20 billion on Australian exports including barley, wine, cotton, coal, and beef.

In the meantime, Tehan said he'll focus on free trade agreements between the United Kingdom and the European Union, as well as trading relationships with India, Japan, and Vietnam.

Scott Morrison.
Scott Morrison. Photo credit: Getty Images

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was open to speaking with Chinese President Xi Jinping as long as there were no "pre-emptive concessions" on Australia's part.

"I don't think that any Australian would want their prime minister to be conceding the points that they've set out," Morrison said on Monday.

But he rejected the claims the two countries' relationship deteriorated after his government called for an investigation into the origins of coronavirus.

"It has been happening for years," he told The Australian.

"The suggestion this has happened all on a dime I think is wrong. And we have seen these changes happen now for some years. The relationship has obviously changed, not over any one thing but over time."