Australia says Chinese tariffs violate free trade pact

Sydney, Australia, Dec 9 (efe-epa).- Australia on Wednesday accused China, its largest trading partner, of violating trade agreement by imposing tariffs on Australian export goods like wine, barley, and beef.

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham told the Australian parliament that the tariffs imposed by Beijing put into question its adherence to the free trade agreement between the two countries and its commitment as a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Birmingham said Australia has tried in vain to address trade disputes with China.

In a statement, the Chinese Embassy in Australia denied the Australian allegations and stressed that 95 percent of Australian products have zero tariffs.

“In contrast, more than 10 Chinese investment projects have been rejected by the Australian government under the pretext of ambiguous national security or national interests since 2018,” the embassy said.

China and Australia signed a free trade agreement in 2015. But Beijing this year began raising tariffs on some Australian exports after bilateral diplomatic ties deteriorated.

In November, China decided to impose a 200 percent tariff on Australian wine for alleged unfair competition, which Canberra denied.

The bilateral tension worsened when Australia launched an investigation into the origin of Covid-19, whose origin is believed to be in China. Beijing fumed over it.

Two years ago, Australia vetoed Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE from concessions on their fifth-generation (5G) network for security reasons.

Australian authorities have approved laws in recent months to limit foreign economic and diplomatic influence in the country without directly citing China.

In the past, Beijing has criticized the interference of countries like Australia in its policy in Xinjiang, where the persecuted Muslim Uighur minority lives, in Hong Kong and the disputed waters of the South China Sea.

China is Australia’s major trading partner, with a bilateral exchange of 235,000 million Australian dollars ($153 billion) worth of goods in 2018-19, representing an increase of 20.5 percent compared to the previous year. EFE-EPA


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