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article imageOp-Ed: Australia and China's trade spat, an Australian perspective

By Paul Wallis     May 15, 2020 in World
Sydney - Australia’s call for an investigation into the pandemic has created a diplomatic row of epic proportions. We’re not impressed. Why is an inquiry into a global disaster such a major issue?
Statistically, Australia and New Zealand have handled the pandemic better than the rest of the world. So if Australia says an inquiry is necessary, it probably is. To then be on the receiving end of trade threats from a hyperreactive China is hardly the best possible response. Add America’s strange set of priorities to the mix, and it’s godawful as a general picture.
This pandemic isn’t over. It has already trashed the global economy quite convincingly. If the virus comes back for an encore, every scrap of information will be useful. We’re already seeing some pediatric and other conditions emerging. A new pandemic able to target infants isn’t exactly a trivial issue. A second wave of the virus, in any form, could be far worse, far more extended, and utterly destroy global trade.
Meanwhile, the ancient thunderings of old geopolitics rattle around like pensioners in a nursing home. China and the US continue their futile war of words, and it’s all about trade, not the virus which is killing business worldwide. This is imbecility on both sides, taken to the point of serious risk. Targeting trade in the middle of a major global economic downturn is questionable at best. Targeting trade in the midst of a second wave would be catastrophic.
Australia couldn’t possibly care less about the various ego clashes across the Pacific. We’re trying to do business, not pander to these tantrums. We have been put in the unenviable position of being between China and the US. We’re seen as a US proxy by China. We’re seen as a client state by the US, a status that can be far more than extremely annoying at times.
Our relationships with both countries are far more organic than either seem to realise. We have friends, relations, business partners, and any number of other associations in both countries. Politics has no role in these relationships. We simply groan a bit more every time some genius decides to throw a few grenades into the national relationships.
Having said which:
1. What use is it to us to be in this idiotic position? None whatsoever. It’s infuriating.
2. Can we ignore this pandemic and future risks? We do business with the world. If global trade crashes, and it quite easily can, we stand to lose out, regardless of who’s currently grandstanding on the world stage.
3. China has basically listed a whole range of “retaliations” for a situation that doesn’t even exist in theory. We’re talking about the virus, not some turgid, almost unbelievably irritating geopolitical catfight. Is this a basis for terminating trade? If so, how can it possibly help anyone during a massive recession?
Just for the record – What value is it to us for some damn speechwriting Trump Tinker Toy in Washington or some lower-level wannabe Red Guard sycophant in Beijing to instantly sabotage our trade by “interpreting” our policies? Talk is cheap, but trade is expensive. That situation needs to end, now. Bear that in mind below.
The story is this:
(a) We can sell our minerals and food anywhere on Earth, probably at better prices than the “mate’s rates” China usually gets in trade deals with Australia. People need minerals and food never goes out of fashion. We’ll survive.
(b) We can do without the politics, period. The US/China spat is utterly useless to us.
(c) China’s exposure to global trade is hardly a secret. Shutting down trade could be the worst move possible in this situation. Even if you ignore the “extracurricular” (off the books) trade with China, so popular and so remunerative for many Chinese, trade must be preserved for the global economy to function. Or everyone suffers. It’s that risky.
Should we break trade and diplomatic links with China. Absolutely not. Should we make the point that the virus is the single most dangerous threat to the global economy and may cause problems for the next 20 years unless we’re able to properly manage the risks? That means do the science, get the vaccines, etc. Yes.
Given the boorish statements from the US regarding China, it’s likely that China does see us as a proxy for America’s Least Interesting Rhetoric. That’s not the case. One pandemic is quite enough. Preventing another has to be top priority.
Australia’s perspective can be summarised:
• Don’t tell us who to do business with, ever.
• Don’t dare tell us who to have as friends and relatives.
• Do pay attention when we’re talking about something potentially lethal to the global economy and the immediate future of humanity.
It seems simple enough, doesn’t it? Let’s see if anyone understands it.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Australia China relations, Australia China trade, Australia calls for investigation into pandemic, New Zealand pandemic, viral strains pandemic 2020
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