China is Australia’s largest trading partner, with two-way trade worth A$252 billion ($184 billion) last year. However, a deepening diplomatic dispute following Canberra’s call for an inquiry into the Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan has angered Beijing, reported the Financial Times.
China has slapped punitive tariffs on Australian barley, restricted beef imports and begun an anti-dumping inquiry into wine exports. Chinese importers have warned their Australian partners that wine, lobsters, timber, sugar, coal and copper would face trade disruption from last Friday, according to verbal briefings delivered by Chinese authorities.
Canberra has asked Beijing to provide clarity on any new measures, but relations have deteriorated to such an extent that Birmingham has admitted that his Chinese counterpart does not return his calls, said the FT.
“It is very clear that Beijing is willing to see Australia punished through the use of trade instruments,” said Hugh White, professor of strategic studies at Australian National University.