GT Voice: Canberra's political stunt unhelpful in salvaging China trade
Published: Apr 11, 2021 08:16 PM
First Creek Factory in Hunter Valley, New South Wales, Australia.Photo:Xinhua

First Creek Factory in Hunter Valley, New South Wales, Australia.Photo:Xinhua

Canberra has continued to beating around the bush in addressing the current trade frictions with its biggest trading partner, constantly pouring cool water on the hope that it could genuinely reevaluate and rectify its past speeches and deeds that sank its relations with Beijing.

In an interview on Sunday, Australian Trade Minister Dan Tehan said he was considering taking China to the WTO over anti-dumping tariffs imposed on its wine exports. The remarks were made just before the minister's trip to Europe this week, where he will meet with the WTO director-general and counterparts from France, Germany and the EU, according to Australian media reports.

In the meantime, Australian businesses appear to be more eager to address their trade woes by reportedly planning to send a high-level trade mission to China as soon as international travel restrictions are lifted. 

While Tehan acknowledged that there needed to be a "Team Australia" approach to "sooth the relations" between China and Australia, "we would wait from a government point of view to get an invitation [from Chinese authorities] before we go with a delegation," he said.

Canberra's rhetoric about how to ease trade spats with Beijing has always been more of the same, ever since their politicians' incessant provocations in 2020 against China sent bilateral relations into a free fall. 

With Chinese buyers drifting away from Australia shunning Australian products, we are surprised to see those Australian politicians come up with different gimmicky stunts - such as launching WTO complaints, seeking assistances from its allies to counter China, or vowing a diversification push to look for another market like China's - but they always refuse to reflect on its past deeds that harmed China's national interests or hurt Chinese people's feelings. 

On the surface, it may look as if the Morrison government is worried about the sudden loss of China's market share, but in reality, Canberra is doing nothing earnest to improve its relations with China, and prevent the relationship from deteriorating. What Australian politicians are engaging in are more like playing political stunts aimed at quelling domestic discontent with its hawkish China policy.

The Morrison government, barring a serious reflection of its China policy, can hardly find a quick fix to alleviate pressure on its exports to soon-to-be the world's largest market. Canberra is stuck in a mindset that it has no choice but listening to the US government' instruction or dictation by trampling on China's core interests and interfering in China's internal affairs. 

Australia is the first country in the world to follow the US to outlaw and oust Huawei's 5G networks, which is highly discriminative and unacceptable in the eyes of 1.4 billion Chinese people. It is also the first US ally to claim that the islands in the South China Sea were not China's lawful territory in history. 

In the past months, the politicians in Canberra have kept responded to domestic pressure to improve ties with Beijing by paying only lip service while doing nothing substantial to help its relationship with China. 

In an Australian Senate estimate hearing last month, officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade drew a bleak picture regarding the country's trade with China. The total value of Australian trade with China slumped by 40 percent in the second half of 2020 compared with the first half. 

Of course, Australian politicians are free to put on their political shows as they like. Sooner or later, their businesses will realize that their government actually has no willingness to change its hostility toward China to help improve their export environment. It's time for Canberra to give it a serious rendering.