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China: Dr Blewett offers a $12 million loan from the Federal Government and discusses trade and human rights issues with the Vice Foreign Minister of China

PETER THOMPSON: Australia's Trade Negotiations Minister, Neal Blewett, has come away from meeting leading Chinese officials with no assurances that China is prepared to listen to the West's concerns about human rights abuses in the People's Republic.

Nevertheless, Dr Blewett has told the Chinese that Australia will provide Beijing with a $12 million loan. The offer comes despite a ban by Canberra on loans in the wake of last year's military crackdown. At the same time, Dr Blewett was unable to extract any guarantees that the Chinese would buy more Australian commodities. Kate Wall in Beijing.

KATE WALL: After two days of talks concentrating on trade and economic matters, Dr Blewett spent about an hour late yesterday, discussing an area the Chinese would prefer left undiscussed - human rights. Adopting the language of diplomats, Dr Blewett described his talks with Vice Foreign Minister, Liu Hua Chu(?), as very vigorous; but not surprisingly, the debate achieved nothing. Dr Blewett raised several issues, including specific cases of about 60 individuals who've been detained without trial. Most are Tibetans, arrested more than two years ago, during anti-Beijing demonstrations in the mountainous province. The remainder - mainly students punished for their role in last year's pro-democracy demonstrations.

Dr Blewett also urged a loosening of restrictions on freedom of speech and association. He said later, that until Canberra saw some movement in these areas, including the tolerance of political reform, Australia would not fully restore diplomatic relations with Beijing. Vice Foreign Minister Liu responded by arguing the need for social stability, next to which, human rights come a poor second. Despite the fruitlessness of the talks, Dr Blewett said they were worthwhile.

NEAL BLEWETT: I think that it is invaluable in itself to have had that debate at that level and with that figure over this issue, but I don't think you can expect one such interchange or many such interchanges. We have simply keep up the pressure on this issue, and the recognition that while we will have that communication with them, it's not going to be possible either at the governmental level or at a more popular level, to restore our relations until those issues are addressed.

KATE WALL: So, how soon can that be?

NEAL BLEWETT: I am certain that these things are not going to change over night.

KATE WALL: At the same time, Dr Blewett announced the Federal Government would be providing China with a $12 million loan, despite any new loans being frozen as part of Canberra's response to last year's events. The justification is that the loans which are aid related were in the pipeline at the time of the massacre, yet the Chinese gave no assurances to Dr Blewett that they would be buying more Australian commodities or that they'd even consider reducing an import duty on wool. Dr Blewett denied Australia had come away from the talks with nothing, either on human rights or trade.

NEAL BLEWETT: I suppose, first of all, I said the other day when I first introduced this discussion, that what we're concerned with here is establishing a framework for trade, not doing the deals essentially, because they're going to have to be done primarily by Australian private companies and Chinese business enterprises. We're concerned with creating that framework.

PETER THOMPSON: The Minister for Trade Negotiations, Neal Blewett, in China with Kate Wall.