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 September 22, 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.
Tehan also indicated that China would have to resolve disputes at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) stemming from a slew of “politically driven” sanctions on Australian imports.
Australia this month asked the WTO to rule against China’s imposition of crippling tariffs on Australian wine exports, after initial consultations failed to resolve the dispute.
Australia is also challenging Chinese tariffs on barley at the WTO and has objected to sanctions on a string of other goods, which Canberra describes as “economic coercion”.