TRADE minister Simon Birmingham has spoken of the need to diversify trading partners following a recent decision by China to impose tariffs on Australian barley.

In conversation with leading journalist Hugh Riminton at the Australian Grains Industry Conference, Senator Birmingham talked of the need for open trade and to avoid the path of tariffs.

“We have achieved great things by opening up. We don’t want to put up walls or restrict trade that only leads to higher [costs],” he said.

In terms of a trade agenda, Senator Birmingham said breaking down tariff barriers was crucial but we need to look for other areas also.

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“We need to be able to seize those opportunities,” he said.

“I have put out a call to AUSTRADE, DFAT and embassies to find and seize those opportunities.”

With China having acted on Australian barley, Senator Birmingham talked of expanding markets in the Middle East, Thailand and Singapore.

Simon Birmingam discusses barley tariffs during a recent interview. Credit: YouTube and ABC

Questioned over whether Australia had “led with our chin” in calling for an inquiry into the causes of COVID-19, the minister denied this had been the cause but said everyone should want to learn the causes of global pandemic.

Regarding China, Senator Birmingham acknowledged success in that country in “lifting people out of poverty” but also that Australia had to be true to its values and avoid any attempts at appeasement because “that only leads to request for more appeasement”.

Mr Riminton posed the question “does the Chinese trade minister take your call”, to which the minister conceded “we have not spoken directly for some time”. “We are open to have that conversation,” Senator Birmingham said.

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