China trade bans, Covid inquiry

The Morrison Government should be regretting its insistence on inquiring into China’s handling of the Covid-19 outbreak now that Australian beef, wine, lobsters, sugar, coal, timber, wool, barley and copper are being turned away or copping tariffs. Wheat and cotton are expected to be next. 

China needs our iron ore but most other goods we sell China can be sourced elsewhere. 

It was naive to expect that China would not react as it has.

The Government appears unable to navigate the shifting geopolitical landscape in which China’s power and influence is growing as the US withdraws from the region. 

China has been importing about a third of everything Australia exports so farmers in particular will be hit hard and for what? Our primary producers and the people in our regional and rural communities have been used as expendable pawns in an unnecessary fight. 

Once again the Nationals have abdicated any role in protecting the interests of our agricultural sector – this time in exchange for empty posturing. 

It is appropriate to criticise China at times, but this was an argument we didn’t have to have and it’s costing Australia $billions in trade.

We also say there should be an inquiry into this pandemic. However, it could easily have been positioned as a global effort to improve our collective resilience and ability to identify and respond to future pandemic threats. It would have been more diplomatic to gather support from other, less exposed nations before making an announcement that might easily be construed as targeting China. 

The World Health Organisation Independent Panel, set up as a result of Australia’s initiative, is due to make a first report on 14 November but it is not clear whether this will be publicly released or indeed that China has agreed to being involved. The program of work was only established last month so it could be a year or more before China is prepared to forgive the insult.  

The Government’s actions have undermined our relationship with our largest international trading partner; financially impacted our farmers at a time when they are just beginning to recover from the most recent impacts of the climate emergency (which the Government refuses to acknowledge, let alone seriously address); and weakened the usefulness of the very thing over which they started this spat in the first place. 

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