Australia is urging China to engage in discussions to ease trade tensions, after Canberra called for an international inquiry into the origins of the new coronavirus.
China, accusing Australia of playing "petty tricks", recently suspended beef imports from four of Australia's largest meat processors and is considering imposing hefty tariffs on imports of barley.
In an interview on Sunday (May 17), Australia's Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said he had asked for talks with his Chinese counterpart.
"That request has not been met with a call being accommodated at this stage." He said Australia was open to having that discussion, but also reserves its rights to bring a case against China at the World Trade Organisation if Beijing imposes tariffs on Australian barley.
Relations have been strained between Canberra and Beijing amid Australian accusations of Chinese meddling in domestic affairs and concern about what Australia sees as China's growing influence in the Pacific region.
Australia insists that its call for a coronavirus inquiry, coming alongside U.S. criticism of China's handling of the outbreak, was not politically targeted at Beijing.
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