SYDNEY (Kyodo) -- Australia signaled on Friday that it may not accept the start of negotiations on China's possible participation in an 11-country trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal unless Beijing removes retaliatory tariffs on Australian goods.
Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Dan Tehan said in a statement that existing members want to be confident that China has a "track record of compliance" with its commitments under the World Trade Organization and existing trade agreements.
The minister suggested the reopening of ministerial-level trade talks is also a prerequisite for starting the negotiations. "As we have conveyed to China, these are important matters which require ministerial engagement," he said.
Amid deteriorating relations between Canberra and Beijing, particularly since Australia early last year called for an independent review into the origins of the novel coronavirus, Australian exports including wine, lobster and barley to China have been hit by trade tariffs and customs delays.
Australia has filed complaints to the WTO over the tariffs imposed on the barley and wine, and expressed readiness to resolve the matters directly through discussions with Beijing. But so far China has declined invitations to resume trade dialogue between the two nations.
China said late Thursday it has filed a bid to join the framework, which consists of such countries as Japan, Australia, New Zealand, several Southeast Asian countries as well as some in the Americas, though not the United States after its withdrawal in 2017.
Since the pact came into force in 2018, several other countries and Taiwan have expressed interest in joining the pact, but accession requires the unanimous approval of all 11 original member countries.