China’s Top Economic Planner ‘Indefinitely Suspends’ High-Level Economic Dialogue With Australia

A short statement by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said all activities under the framework of the China-Australia Strategic Economic Dialogue had been “indefinitely suspended”.

“Recently, some Australian Commonwealth government officials launched a series of measures to disrupt the normal exchanges and cooperation between China and Australia out of cold war mindset and ideological discrimination,” the statement said.

The decision is based “on the current attitude of the Australian Commonwealth government toward China-Australia cooperation”.

The China-Australia Strategic Economic Dialogue is part of a series of bilateral talks that facilitate more cooperation between the two countries, particularly in trade. The inaugural session was held in June 2014, the second in June 2015, with the last known meeting held in Beijing in September 2017.

Australia responded to China’s decision with Trade Minister Dan Tehan saying: “We remain open to holding the dialogue and engaging at the ministerial level.”

Along with other diplomatic vehicles and pacts between the two countries such as the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement, the Strategic Economic Dialogue provided an opportunity for the two countries to engage in their trading relationship.

“This is unfortunate. We do need dialogue with China,” said Australian opposition leader Anthony Albanese in Sydney. “It can’t be just on their terms, though. It’s got to be on both countries’ terms.”

According to an NDRC statement in September 2017, “the China-Australia Strategic Economic Dialogue is an important mechanism under the regular meetings of the prime ministers of China and Australia, and an important part of the various mechanisms for consolidating bilateral relations between the two countries”.

The statement added that the two sides would strengthen economic ties through strategic dialogue, focusing on economic development and investment.

Thursday’s announcement was made following Australia’s move last month to revoke Victoria state’s participation in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, after deeming its agreements with Beijing to be at odds with Canberra’s foreign policy.

Beijing previously said it would “respond firmly and forcefully” if Australia did not reverse the decision.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said that the move by Australia to cancel the belt and road deal showed that they are not genuine in wanting to improve relations.

In another move amid the escalating tensions, the Australian parliament called last month for the government to consider revoking a 99-year lease of Darwin Port to Landbridge Group.

Australian Minister for Defence Peter Dutton confirmed to The Sydney Morning Herald on Sunday that his department was looking into whether Landbridge should relinquish its lease under a set of critical infrastructure laws passed in 2018.

China and Australia have been locked in an escalating political conflict for more than a year.

It boiled over when Australia pushed for an international inquiry into the origin of the coronavirus without consulting Beijing in April 2020.

Ever since then, trade between the two countries had borne the brunt of the tensions, sparking calls for diversification and even “economic decoupling”.

Beijing has targeted a number of Australian exports including barley beef, wine, lobsters and coal.

In March, China placed anti-dumping duties of between 116.2 per cent and 218.4 per cent on Australian wines in containers of two litres or less after concluding its anti-dumping investigations.

It then imposed an 80.5 per cent tariff on Australia’s barley exports in May following the conclusion of an 18-month investigation.

Australia has taken its dispute over China’s anti-dumping duties imposed on its barley

to the World Trade Organization, but the issue could still take years to resolve after last month

Beijing blocked what it called a “premature” move to set up probe with the Geneva-based body.

Source: South China Morning Post

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Author: Teddy Ng

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