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Australia’s new prime minister has urged China to lift trade sanctions if it wants to reset relations between the two nations.

The Chinese sent a congratulatory letter to Australia’s Labor Party leader Anthony Albanese on his election victory, a move that relaxed Beijing’s two-year ban on high-level government contact with Australia.

Premier Li Keqiang said China was ready to work with Australia to develop the bilateral relationship, reports the Independent.

Trade war

Relations between the nations have been rocky in recent years as China reacted to Australian demands to investigate Chinese culpability in the Covid pandemic by blocking billions of dollars of Australian exports – including coal, wine, barley, beef and seafood.

According to the FT, the Australian economy has bounced back from the Chinese actions by finding alternative markets while China has struggled to find commodities it once bought from Australia.

However, Australia treasurer Jim Chalmers called for China to immediately lift trade barriers.

“We would certainly like to see those sanctions and those tariffs lifted. They are damaging our economy. They are making life harder for some of our employers and workers here in Australia and so obviously we would like to see those measures lifted,” Chalmers told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

French friends and EU relations

Politico reports that Albanese is looking to “turn the page” on Franco-Australian relations which also declined under the Morrison government after Australia ditched a multi-billion submarine deal with France for a US-UK alternative.

Australia will remain part of the AUKUS security alliance with the US and UK.

However, it could put a much-coveted free-trade agreement with the EU back on track after negotiations, which kicked off in 2018, stalled after France sought to delay the process in retaliation for the AUKUS row.

The talks have since resumed, but Albanese’s election win, could fast forward them.

European Council President Charles Michel congratulated Albanese on his win, tweeting: “With EU being one of Australia’s major trading partners, [we] look forward to work on new FTA unlocking further trade potential.”