Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong held talks Thursday with the Chinese Communist Party's foreign affairs director, Wang Yi, on the sidelines of the East Asia Foreign Ministers summit in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Australia has urged China to continue to ease restrictions on Australian commodities imposed during the height of diplomatic frictions between the two countries.
China has started to allow imports of Australian coal and timber, but tariffs remain on other products, including wine and lobsters.
Wong has also raised concerns about the detention of Australian citizens on national security charges in Beijing.
Wong gave reporters an update on talks in the Indonesian capital Thursday.
“It was a frank conversation and it was a conversation in which a number of issues were raised certainly in relation to trade impediments," she said. "I acknowledged the progress we have seen in recent months and reiterated our expectation that this progress continues.”
Wong said she also raised the continued incarceration of two Australians in Beijing accused of state security-related crimes. Writer Yang Hengjun was detained by China in January 2019. Cheng Lei, a high-profile Australian television anchor for the Chinese government's English news channel, CGTN, was arrested the following year
Wong also said that discussions were held over Chinese arrest warrants issued for two Australia-based Hong Kong democracy campaigners. Beijing has accused them of “anti-China activities aimed at destabilizing Hong Kong.” Wong gave no further details.
Trade with China has underpinned Australia’s recent prosperity, but political tensions over human rights, Beijing’s territorial ambitions in the Pacific and the South China Sea as well as detained Australians and the origins of COVID-19 have destabilized bilateral relations in recent years.
China accounts for more than a quarter of Australia’s international trade.
Australia’s left-leaning government has been attempting to stabilize bilateral relations since it won an election in May of last year.
Analysts have said Australia is eager to normalize ties with its biggest trading partner before a proposed visit to Beijing by Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese later this year.