China insisted on Wednesday that trade relations with Australia would not be harmed by the case of a detained Rio Tinto executive accused of spying, despite a warning from Australia's prime minister.
"China and Australia are very important trading partners and have good co-operation in areas including raw materials, free trade talks and agriculture," commerce ministry spokesman Yao Jian told reporters. "I think these relations will definitely not be affected by an individual case."
He also dismissed criticism that the case -- in which Australian Rio Tinto executive Stern Hu and three Chinese colleagues were detained on July 5 for allegedly stealing state secrets -- would hurt China's business reputation.
"I don't think the Rio Tinto case will affect China's trade environment or foreign investment environment," he said.
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd earlier Wednesday warned China that it had economic interests at stake in the case.
"Australia of course has significant economic interests in its relationship with China, but I also want to remind our Chinese friends that China too has significant economic interests at stake in its relationship with Australia and with its other commercial partners around the world," Rudd said.
"A range of foreign governments and corporations will be watching this case with interest and be watching it very closely, and will be drawing their own conclusions as to how it is conducted."