WA farmers could be just weeks away from regaining access to China’s barley market after Australia’s Trade Minister Don Farrell continued negotiations with his counterpart in Beijing. Speaking after his third meeting with Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao in the past two months while in the US on Saturday, Mr Farrell said he expected the punitive 80 per cent impost on Australian barley to be removed within the next few weeks. Australia recently suspended its World Trade Organisation case to give Beijing time to review the impost. “I intend to persist and persevere with all of those trade impediments, with a view to resolving them as quickly as we possibly can,” Mr Farrell said. “We’re making progress, but the job is not finished.” The comments are the latest sign ties between Australia and its top trading partner are on the mend, with timber exports to China, worth $600 million a year, recently following the resumption of coal shipments earlier in 2023. Mr Farrell said the export of hay and, to some extent meat, remain outstanding issues. As does the resumption of the crayfish trade, which cost WA fishers $73.8m in the year after China’s unofficial ban on rock lobster exports was imposed in late 2020. The Middle Kingdom was the primary market for Australian lobsters, representing 93 per cent of all exports. WA accounted for 58 per cent of the country’s lobster exports, valued at $315m. The Chinese government took punitive actions on a range of goods in 2020 after then-prime minister Scott Morrison backed calls for an international investigation into the origins of COVID-19 in Wuhan. Australia’s WTO complaint into excessive duties on wine imports by China is expected in June. Even as it seeks to mend trade ties with China, Australia is pushing to diversify away from the nation, which accounts for about 30 per cent of its total trade — more than the US, Japan, South Korea, India the UK and Germany combined, Mr Farrell said. “We can walk and chew gum, so we can continue to build on our trading relationship with China, stabilise that relationship, but also diversify our economy so that we have a range of a range of choices,” Mr Farrell said. That push includes new free-trade agreements with India and the UK. The UK and Australia’s free trade agreement is expected to come into force in coming months, giving Australia an immediate, tariff-free quota of 80,000t of wheat and 7000t of barley to the UK. Total Australian wine exports to the UK were valued at $2.1 billion in 2022 as Australian producers still reeling from China’s crippling impost looked to build on other markets. But tariffs there are as high as £26/100 litres. The new trade deal will eliminate tariffs on wine, equating to a saving of about $37 million in customs duties each year.