Albanese administration should hear calls from businesses to improve trade with China
Published: Jun 14, 2022 12:36 AM
Australian firm Champion Wool Factory presents its wool products during the China International Consumer Products Expo in Haikou, capital of South China's Hainan Province on May 8, 2021. Photo: Zhang Hongpei/GT
Australian firm Champion Wool Factory presents its wool products during the China International Consumer Products Expo in Haikou, capital of South China's Hainan Province on May 8, 2021. Photo: Zhang Hongpei/GT

Australian businesses that have long been complaining about the disruption on bilateral trade caused by the anti-China policies of former Australian administration, praised the recent positive signs in Canberra's relations with Beijing after new Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, was sworn in office, Australian media outlet Australian Financial Review reported on Monday.

The chief executive of Australian winemaker, Treasury Wine Estates, is hopeful of a restoration of the Australia-China relations, saying that "it is encouraging to see discussions between the two governments for the first time in several years," and the company remains committed to the Chinese market for the long term, according to the report.

The positive response from Australian businesses come as bilateral relations between China and Australia are at a "new juncture" with the election of a new Australian government and the first minister-to-minister talks in more than two years. The Albanese administration should attach great importance with such voices representing Australia's economic interests.

The praise from the Australian business community reflects the mutually beneficial nature of China-Australian commerce and trade, and the dependency of Australian enterprises on the Chinese market. With highly complementary economic and trade ties, as long as the new Australian government removes the political interferences on trade imposed by its predecessor, bilateral trade is expected to naturally rebound to a higher level.

Moreover, the hope of Australian businesses came after a prolonged suffering from the Morrison administration's extreme anti-China moves that served the US' geopolitical calculations at the expense of Australian businesses. As hope in bilateral ties restoration rises, the Albanese administration shoulders the responsibility to safeguard the interests of Australian businesses.

Before travelling to Geneva for the World Trade Organization's (WTO) 12th Ministerial Conference, Australian Trade Minister, Don Farrell, last week signaled the restoration of trade relations, two years after they first soured, by seeking a meeting with his Chinese counterpart, according to Australian media outlets. Trade is indeed a good starting point for repairing bilateral relations. If the Australian government is sincere, they should further send positive signals in this regard.

The main culprit that hurt China-Australia economic and trade relations was the irrational anti-China policy adopted by the Morrison government. Therefore, the first thing the new government can do is remove the discriminatory policies imposed by the previous government on Chinese companies and products and stop ideological and political interference on economic and trade issues.

However, the new Australian government is sending mixed signals. Albanese reportedly said that China must drop the "sanctions" slapped on his country to successfully reignite the ties. This pressuring gesture with groundless accusations is not conducive to solve the problem.

In response to the claims by the Treasurer of Australia Jim Chalmers of Chinese "sanctions" and tariffs that are "damaging the country's economy," China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson said last week that China's trade practices are "lawful and legitimate." China's measures on foreign imports were taken "in strict accordance" with Chinese laws and WTO rules. As a matter of fact, China has never announced any economic retaliation or "sanctions" against Australia.

If the Australian government has learned lessons from the Morrison government on trade issues, it should not ignore the voices of the business community. The wanton anti-China approach and weaponizing trade issues will only allow competitors from the US and other countries to further steal the market share of Australian companies in China.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.