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By Joe Cash

China voices concern over Australia's scrutiny of its firms

Printed Chinese and Australian flags are seen in this illustration, July 21, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

(Corrects to say the meeting of Australian-Chinese officials took place in Beijing, not at the WTO)

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's international trade negotiator has expressed concern over Australia's scrutiny of the operations of Chinese firms there, the commerce ministry said, while flagging the potential for economic and trade co-operation.

The comments by Vice Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen came during a meeting on Monday with Australia's deputy secretary general for foreign affairs and trade in the Chinese capital, the ministry said in a statement.

The meeting continues an apparent thaw in trade ties that saw China lift curbs on Australian coal exports in early January, although the trade partners continue to feud over Australian exports of wine, beef, barley, seafood, and timber.

It also came a day before Canberra, citing security concerns, vowed to remove TikTok, a social media platform owned by China's ByteDance, from all devices owned by the federal government, citing security concerns.

Wang urged Canberra to "provide a fair, open and non-discriminatory business environment for Chinese enterprises" during the meeting.

His remarks echoed what Chinese foreign ministry officials have said about the United States' decision to place the app under greater scrutiny.

"China-Australia economic and trade relations are at an important juncture of stabilisation and improvement," the ministry quoted Wang as saying, while calling for stronger communication and co-ordination to help resolve concerns.

The chief executive of Australian mining giant BHP, Mike Henry, and China's vice foreign minister, Xie Feng, met on March 27, the Chinese foreign ministry said in a separate statement on Tuesday.

It expressed hope for a greater contribution by BHP to improving ties, particularly in new areas such as climate change and new energy.

(This story has been corrected to say the meeting of Australian-Chinese officials took place in Beijing, not at the WTO)

(Reporting by Joe Cash; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Clarence Fernandez)

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