Chinese official refutes Aussie claims of undermining FTA

By Wang Bozun Source: Global Times Published: 2020/12/9 20:43:40

Beijing has fulfilled obligations since FTA signed in 2015

Bottles of Penfolds Grange, made by Australian wine maker Penfolds and owned by Australia's Treasury Wine Estates, sit on a shelf for sale at a wine shop in central Sydney, Australia, August 4, 2014. (Xinhua/REUTERS)

Australia's claim that China undermines the free trade agreement between the two economies shows that the former is trying to politicize bilateral trade while imposing barriers to normal trade, Chinese experts said on Wednesday.

The comments came after Australian Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said that China undermines a bilateral free trade agreement by targeting a dozen Australian goods as bilateral tensions rise.

The minister's accusation apparently referred to several actions China has taken to guarantee its imported food security and protect Chinese domestic industries from Canberra's subsidizing its businesses and dumping by Australian exporters. 

China's actions include anti-dumping and countervailing tariffs levied against Australian barley and the suspension of beef imports from several Australian companies.

Chinese experts said that Australian trade minister's comments show his purpose is to politicize the issue, because there is no "trade war" between the two countries. Every action that China has taken against Australian goods was in accordance with laws and international trade practices, and the measures were meant to protect China's own interests.

"For example, the suspension of imports of Australian timber was due to the detection of bark beetles. There is no country in the world that would allow imports of timber with bark beetles because they would damage the local biological environment," Yu Lei, chief research fellow at the Research Center for Pacific Island Countries at Liaocheng University, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

The Chinese Embassy in Australia also denied the trade minister's accusation, saying it's groundless.

"The fact is that China has been actively fulfilling its obligations since the two countries signed a free trade agreement (FTA); and China has lowered tariffs on Australian goods every year since 2015," a spokesperson at the embassy said on Wednesday, adding that about 95 percent of Australian goods enjoy tariff-free export to China's huge market.

"Since 2015 when the FTA was signed, Australia has launched more than 100 trade remedy investigations against Chinese goods, while China has launched less than 10... The facts prove that it is Australia that has been moving against the free trade spirit," Yu said, noting that actually Australia often politicizes bilateral economic cooperation and trade ties often citing national security issue.

On Tuesday, Australia passed a bill that gives the federal government more power to monitor and regulate — or even veto — agreements that state governments reach with foreign countries, which is widely seen as a move aiming to scrap cooperation between the state of Victoria and China under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

At a daily press briefing on Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian declined to comment on the bill, as it is an Australian internal affair. But he urged Canberra to view cooperation between China and Victoria in a rational and objective way. 

"China's cooperation with Victoria under the BRI framework is beneficial for both sides... We urge Australia not to intentionally set barriers for normal cooperation between the two countries, or conduct selective or discriminatory law enforcement," Zhao said.

Canberra, under political pressure from Washington, has been opposing the BRI while ignoring the benefits the initiative could bring for its own businesses, Wang Yiwei, director of the Institute of International Affairs at Renmin University of China, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

"China has successful experience in cooperating with many developed countries under the BRI framework, such as Greece, which was entangled in a debt crisis for nearly a decade," Wang said.

"Vastly improved ports under the BRI framework in Greece, for example, have dramatically upgraded the country's transportation and logistics sectors," Wang said, adding that Melbourne of Australia is a city that could also apply Greece's experience.

Newspaper headline: Canberra politicizes trade ties


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