Virtual meetings hampering trade mediation

Simon Birmingham says having to go virtual isn't helping smooth Australia's troubles with China.
Simon Birmingham says having to go virtual isn't helping smooth Australia's troubles with China.

The impact of COVID-19 forcing international events such as this weekend's G20 meeting to go virtual has not helped Australia trying to sort out its trade difficulties with China.

But nor has a number of the actions taken by China's embassy in Australia this year, including providing its list of grievances to the media last week, Trade Minister Simon Birmingham says.

"COVID does certainly add a degree of difficulty in terms of working through some of these issues," Senator Birmingham told Sky News' Sunday Agenda program.

He said international meetings usually provide opportunities and moments for informal dialogue but have been impossible under present circumstances.

"I'm not saying it would fix the current circumstances but it is yet another hindrance in terms of addressing them," he said.

Senator Birmingham said from the Australian government's perspective, like China or any other nation, it will stand up for its values and interests and protect its sovereignty and security.

"But that doesn't mean that we aren't also open to dialogue engagement and co-operation with our partner countries across the globe," he said.

"We think it is in China's best interest, Australia's best interest and the region's best interest at a time when economic recovery is so crucial for that co-operation to continue."

Australian Associated Press