Beijing’s ambassador previously warned Australia of a consumer boycott if it pushed for an investigation into Covid-19.
China already suspended imports from four major Australian beef suppliers Tuesday, only weeks after Beijing’s ambassador warned of a consumer boycott in retaliation for Canberra’s push to probe the origins of the Corona-virus.
Analysts said the move raised concerns of a possible stand-off between Australia and its most important trading partner that could spill over into other crucial sectors as it struggles to navigate the disease-induced economic crisis.
Federal Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said shipments of meat from the abattoirs had been suspended over “minor technical” breaches related to Chinese health and labeling certificate requirements.
We are concerned that the suspensions appear to be based on highly technical issues, which in some cases date back more than a year,” he added.
We will work with industry and authorities in both Australia and China to seek to find a solution that allows these businesses to resume their normal operations as soon as possible.
The four meat works account for about 35% of Australia’s beef exports to China in a trade worth about A$1.7 billion (US$1.1 billion).
China has also flagged major tariffs on Australian barley over allegations it is selling the grain in China for less than it costs to produce it – known as dumping. The Australian Financial Review cited confidential documents as saying Beijing is considering duties of 73.6%.
Tensions between the two have increased since Australia started calling for an independent investigation into the origin of the Corona-virus outbreak, which started in China before spreading around the world, shattering the global economy.
The countries were already at loggerheads after Australia hit China with huge anti-dumping levies on several products including aluminum and steel.
Beijing has also been riled by a decision to ban controversial telecommunications giant Huawei from building Australia’s 5G network.
And there are fears of a further escalation of the stand-off and its impact on their two-way trade, which is about A$235 billion.
“The risk is, of course, that this broadens out to more critical areas such as iron ore, coal, education, LNG, etc,” said AxiCorp’s Stephen Innes.
But if it stays at beef and barley, then economically, it shouldn’t matter much for Five Eyes member Australia.
Asia Times / ABC Flash Point Trade News 2020.