China: A trade partner or a threat trader?

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The Chinese Ambassador in Australia Cheng Jingye recently threatened Australia with trade boycotts because Australia wanted an independent inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus.

By way of retaliation, China has suspended imports from four Australian abattoirs and also imposed a substantial 80 per cent tariff on Australian barley imports for five years. China is Australia’s largest trading partner, with our major exports being iron ore, gas, coal and gold. It is also the number one market for Australian beef by volume, accounting for about almost one-third of exports.

However, the Australian Government doesn’t appear to be worried, Australian Meat Industry Council chief executive Patrick Hutchinson said, “while not desirable, we have dealt with issues of this nature before and are working closely with the Commonwealth.”

So far, the Coronavirus has taken approximately 333,000 lives worldwide. When a single death requires investigation and examinations of processes, there is no doubt of the importance of an independent review the origins of the coronavirus, its transmission modes and the global response.

The World Health Assembly (WHA) has passed a motion this week to conduct an independent review of the global coronavirus response, including the source of the virus and how it was transmitted to humans. The motion, proposed by more than 130 countries including Australia, New Zealand, the UK and EU members, passed with no objections on the second day of the WHA summit.

Unfortunately, China’s intimidation always meets with success. China knows that, of course, which is why it so often gets its way. But this time it didn’t work against Australia. It’s a pity though that some Australian politicians and leaders were asking the Government to back off from the inquiry in response to the Chinese boycott of Australian products, but Australia stood tall. This was demonstrated through the backing of 137 countries, including China at the last minute supporting the call for an inquiry.

This issue has also highlighted Australia’s reliance on one country for economic prosperity. But this is Australia’s moment of clarity! Australia has allowed itself to become more dependent on Chinese products and trade. We are performing way better in handling a pandemic which has turned the world upside down, so we can easily overcome these unfounded trade threats.

In an interview with the Australian Financial Review, Cheng said “the Chinese public is frustrated, dismayed and disappointed with what Australia is doing now”. This clearly demonstrates that he has no understanding of the enormity of frustration & disappointment the world has with their blockade for an inquiry. Keeping this aside, Ambassador Jingye’s threats & Chinese retaliation through a trade boycott provides a great opportunity to Australia to correct its course.

A recently formed Facebook group “Australian Made Products” has attracted almost 1.6 Million members within 5 months that speaks volume about the sentiments of the local population.

Australia should bring back manufacturing, give benefits to both companies and consumers of Australian made products.

This is the time to wake up and act as we will have no one to blame for our downfall, if we still try to sleep through this matter. Self-reliance for survival is a must not only for current economic prosperity but for the future too.

BY Karthik Arasu
(President of “Australia India Sports Council)