China has ignored Australia's attempts to discuss trade tensions over beef and barley imports, and state governments fear they could become the meat in the sandwich as the trade tangle heats up.
Federal Trade Minister Simon Birmingham confirmed his Chinese counterpart had not responded to requests for the talks.
"We have not secured said meeting yet. I would hope that would be forthcoming," he told parliament on Wednesday.
But he later said it was most appropriate that industry sort out the problems with Chinese administrators directly.
Ministerial-level engagement would simply seek assurances the Chinese would use an evidence-based process and will give a fair hearing to the Australian case, he told the ABC.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne said she had never had a problem getting in touch with her counterpart.
"We engage through correspondence, we engage through Beijing, we engage through calls," she told Sky News.
West Australian Premier Mark McGowan has urged conservative politicians to tone down their inflammatory rhetoric.
"Some federal Liberal MPs from Western Australia have been very hostile with some of our trading relationships," he told state parliament.
"We need to ensure we have balanced commentary and a balanced approach to these issues to ensure that our citizens aren't collateral damage."
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is also skittish about the stoush.
"China is an incredibly important trading partner to Queensland. Most of our trade goes to China," she told reporters.
Victorian treasurer Tim Pallas said the meatworks bans were an inevitable consequence of language that vilified China.
Australian relations with China have been heavily strained since Scott Morrison began pushing for a global inquiry into coronavirus.
Beijing's ambassador warned China could boycott Australian produce if the prime minister persisted.
China has since blacklisted four Australian abattoirs and threatened to slap an 80 per cent tariff on barley imports.
Senator Payne insists these are separate issues from the angst over an inquiry.
Eighteen per cent of Australia's beef production is shipped to China, with exports worth more than $3 billion a year.
The four meatworks involved account for more than a third of Australian beef exports.
China's foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said customs officers had detected repeated violations of inspection and quarantine requirements by a few Australian beef export companies.
"China has decided to suspend, effective immediately, processing four Australian companies' import declarations for meat products," he said.
"The Chinese side has asked the Australian side to conduct a thorough investigation to find the cause and address the issue."
Mr Morrison said the claims related to "paperwork and administration issues".
Australia had raised both the barley and beef issues with China frequently over quite some time and would not shy away from setting out its case, he told parliament.
"From time to time there will be differences of views about those issues and we will seek to progress them very constructively in the national interest, always in the national interest," Mr Morrison said.
Australian Associated Press