Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday announced a major reshuffle in his Cabinet, appointing a former diplomat as new trade minister amid increasingly strained relations with China.
Education Minister Dan Tehan has been moved to the key portfolio of minister for trade, tourism, and investment as his predecessor Simon Birmingham was appointed as finance minister in October, following the retirement of Mathias Cormann from federal politics.
Morrison said in a statement: “Dan brings strong credentials to this role as a former officer in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, as well as a keen sense of the particular interests of regional Australia in an open, rules-based trading system.”
The new appointment came a day after treasurer Josh Frydenberg said Australia’s trade tensions with China are serious but they want the relationship to continue, as new markets are being explored.
Relations between Beijing and Canberra turned sour after the latter joined its Western allies in seeking a probe into the origins of COVID-19, which first appeared in Wuhan, China, last December.
On Nov. 28, China imposed tariffs of over 200% on Australian wine imports following an anti-dumping investigation.
Australia on Wednesday announced it would approach the World Trade Organization (WTO) against China over the imposition of tariffs on barley.
Morrison also appointed several other ministers, including Alan Tudge as new education and youth minister and Luke Howarth as assistant minister for youth and employment services.
Paul Fletcher got the portfolio of communications, urban infrastructure, cities, and the arts, and David Coleman became assistant minister to the prime minister for mental health and suicide prevention.