Imports from Australia contract 5.3% in 2020 amid worsening bilateral relations
Published: Jan 14, 2021 08:13 PM

An iron ore mining site in Australia Photo: cnsphotos


Australia's constant hostility toward China, its largest trading partner, throughout the coronavirus-haunted 2020, put a significant dent in its export-reliant economy, experts said, with China's imports from Australia down 5.3 percent in US dollar terms. 

The downtrend is likely to continue if Canberra fails to re-connect with Chinese investors and consumers, experts said.

China's exports to Australia rose 10.9 percent year-on-year in 2020, but its imports from Australia, built on iron ore, shrank 5.3 percent, according to Chinese customs data released on Thursday.

The contraction in yuan terms was less severe as the yuan rose in strength compared with the US dollar over the past year.

Imports from Australia were down 4.6 percent in yuan terms, while exports rose 11.2 percent, the General Administration of Customs revealed at a press conference on Thursday, during which it was confirmed that iron ore took up the lion's share of imports from Australia.

The declining imports arguably bode ill for the struggling Australian economy. Despite a partial recovery in the September quarter of 2020, Australia's economic activity still shrank 3.8 percent through the year to the September quarter, according to figures released in December by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

By comparison, China's exports to Australia were up 1.8 percent in US dollar terms in 2019, while imports showed a gain of 14.8 percent, per Chinese customs figures. 

These readings apparently show the destructive impact on bilateral trade caused by Canberra's self-damaging moves, which seemingly followed in the footsteps of the Trump administration to pressure China.

The decline in imports was largely attributed to Canberra's moves to politicize economic activities, which undermined trust in Australian-origin businesses and products among Chinese investors and consumers, Chen Hong, a professor and director of the Australian Studies Center at East China Normal University, told the Global Times on Thursday. 

In a fresh sign of hostility, Australia blocked China State Construction Engineering Corp from acquiring an 88-percent stake in Melbourne-based builder Probuild on grounds of national security, Australian media reported on Tuesday. 

With the Australian government continuing to set up investment and trade blocks, more Chinese businesses would avoid Australian investment. Further, Chinese consumers would increasingly shun the Australian products that they'd bought in recent years, Chen commented, calling on Canberra to make frank efforts to mend the relationship for there to be a trade revival.