News National Trade Minister Simon Birmingham accuses China of ‘undermining’ world economy

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham accuses China of ‘undermining’ world economy

In the latest sign of escalating trade tensions, China has slugged Australian wine with steep tariffs. Photo: Getty
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Trade Minister Simon Birmingham says China’s trade conflicts are not just hurting Australian businesses but undermining global confidence and the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the latest stoush with its number one trading partner, China has imposed levies of up to 212 per cent on Australian wine exports.

It adds to a growing list of Australian exports that have become entangled in a diplomatic war of words between the two countries, including barley, coal, timber and meat.

“It is a matter for Chinese authorities to speak plainly and clearly about what it is driving this consistent trend of actions,” Senator Birmingham told ABC television’s Insiders program.

He said while the government has welcomed the rise of the Chinese economy, it has also become more assertive in other ways.

“What we want to see is that assertiveness channelled into good, into engaging in ways with the rest of the world, that helps to drive economic growth rather than dampens it,” Senator Birmingham said.

“These types of actions don’t just hurt Australian businesses … they undermine confidence in the global economy and that’s not good for the world’s recover from COVID, not just our own.”

China is stopping scores of bulk carries unloading their Australian coal. Photo: AAP

Prime Minister Scott Morrison admits the trade issues with China are creating difficult times but says Australia is no stranger to that.

But he compares these conflicts with China to previous economic setbacks like the oil price shock, the commodity boom and bust and the creation of the European Common Market.

“All of these things economically have caused shocks into the system,” Mr Morrison told ABC radio on Sunday morning.

However he said the agriculture sector has proved to resilient to these in the past.

“We will do everything we can to ensure we can try and address these trade issues that have come up with China – technicality issues that they have raised – but obviously we are very concerned about that,” he said.

He said that is one of the reasons why the government has expanded the amount of its trade over the past seven years covered by agreements from 26 per cent to 70 per cent.

“So much of our trade now is covered by agreements,” he said.

While the trade argy-bargy continues, data last week showed Australian iron ore exports reached a record high of $10.9 billion in October, most of which was destined for China.