In his first interview as trade minister, Dan Tehan says he wants good ties with China and will push the US to rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

He inherits the trade portfolio after a year dominated by an escalating series of bans and punitive tariffs placed by China on a raft of Australian goods triggered after the Morrison government called for an inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus.
His rural electorate of Wannon in south-western Victoria has felt some of that pain through boycotts of crayfish and timber logs.
Australian coal is the best coal in the world and we think that it is in Chinas interests to continue importing our coal.
Dan Tehan, Trade Minister
Chinas actions have been branded economic coercion seemingly part of a deliberate strategy against Australia, and Beijing has refused to take calls from ministers.
Mr Tehan hoped his appointment, coinciding with that of a new Chinese commerce minister, Wang Wentao, last month, would offer the chance to repair trade ties.
He said he had written to Mr Wang reaffirming Australias commitment to our trade and economic relationship and detailing the many forums we have to work constructively together on.
Its now well over three years since weve had a formal trade ministers meeting with China and Im happy to be patient, he said in a round table interview with journalists.
“Obviously the way I would describe the current trade disputes is they are incredibly disappointing and I want to be doing everything I can to seek to engage constructively with China so we can address them.
“The end game is we want very constructive engagement with China across the board.”
Mr Tehan said he remained concerned over the impasse that has led to dozens of ships carrying Australian coal being stranded off Chinese ports.
Apart from the commercial cost, the stand-off also presented a welfare dimension, as crew members had been prevented from disembarking after months at sea.
Bilateral solution
Australian coal is the best coal in the world and we think that it is in Chinas interests to continue importing our coal, he said.
Dan Tehans in his rural electorate of Wannon in Victoria. Billy-Jay Robins
If we think there is a case to take it to the World Trade Organisation and that might help resolve the issue, then that is something obviously we may look at but our focus at the moment is to see whether we can resolve this bilaterally and resolve this as quickly as we can.
Asked later about China apparently having added copper to its list of banned Australian products, a DFAT spokesman responded by saying that the government will continue to engage constructively with China to resolve outstanding trade issues.
Mr Tehan said he was confident Australia would remain an attractive location for Chinese students and tourists when the international border reopened, and cited Australias success in handling the pandemic as a selling point.
He said US President Joe Bidens commitment to multilateralism was welcome, and could help lead to a thaw in Australia-China relations.
He would lobby the Biden administration to participate in WTO reform, re-engage with the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum and rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
However, Mr Tehan said it was up to existing signatories to agree to allow the US to renegotiate parts of the agreement, which Mr Biden has made conditional for America to re-enter the pact.
Speeding up negotiations
He said he wanted to accelerate negotiations on free trade agreements with the United Kingdom and European Union after travel restrictions had prevented face-to-face talks.
“Ideally, [it] would be great to have both of those concluded by the end of this year,” he said.
“We want these agreements to be truly liberalising.”
However, he pushed back against the idea of carbon border tariffs, which the European Union has been pursuing more broadly as part of its climate-change policies as a way to tax imports based on their carbon emissions.
Mr Tehan said it was yet to emerge as a stumbling block in Australia and EU negotiations.
“We do not want to see carbon tariffs used as a new form of protection. We want to make sure that the engagement on climate change and meeting emissions reduction targets is done in a way which is constructive for global free trade,” he said.
He said he had held detailed talks with the tourism sector about either specific or targeted support for operators, but one of the challenges was finding a way to partition assistance for businesses suffering because of the restrictions on international travel while domestic tourism had grown relatively strongly.
He hinted, though, that foreigners who had been immunised against the virus might be able to come to Australia sooner, outside of travel bubble arrangements with countries with low infection rates.
“We will take the advice of our medical experts when it comes to whether successful rollout of the vaccine globally could lead to us being able to open the border to international tourists earlier, especially for those who had been vaccinated,” he said.