UPDATE 2-China willing to restart trade dialogue with Australia after talks
(Adds Farrell's comments in second and final paragraphs)
BEIJING, Feb 6 (Reuters) - China's commerce minister Wang Wentao said talks held on Monday with Australian counterpart Don Farrell were a key step toward bringing bilateral economic and trade ties back on track, with relations improving after being strained in recent years.
The virtual meeting "represents another important step in the stabilisation of Australia's relations with China," Farrell said after the first talks between the trade ministers of the two countries since 2019.
Last month, Chinese officials relaxed import bans on Australian coal as both countries work to improve diplomatic relations after more than two years of Chinese trade restrictions on a range of Australian exports including barley, lobster and wine.
Wang said China is willing to restart the mechanism facilitating dialogue with Australia on economic and trade issues and to expand cooperation in emerging areas including climate change and the new energy sectors.
"At present, the economic and trade relations between the two countries are facing an important window period... the meeting is a significant step to push China and Australia economic and trade relations back on track," Wang said in a statement released by his ministry following the talks with Farrell.
China's top economic planner in May 2021 suspended all activity under a China-Australia Strategic Economic Dialogue which was an important forum for Australia and China to work through issues relevant to bilateral economic partnership.
The Chinese statement said Australia was also willing to work with China to enhance mutual trust and resolve differences through candid dialogue.
In addition, China attached great importance to the Canberra's security review of Chinese companies' investment and operations in Australia, expecting Canberra to provide a fair, open and non-discriminatory business environment for Chinese firms.
Wang described China and Australia as important economic and trade partners, with a highly complementary economic structure, making cooperation mutually beneficial.
The exchanges between the two ministers were "professional, pragmatic and candid", according to the statement.
Farrell said had agreed to an in-person meeting with Wang in Beijing in the near future. (Reporting by Ellen Zhang and Ryan Woo; Editing by Christopher Cushing and Simon Cameron-Moore)