Business & Economy

China bans Australian beef after Canberra demands coronavirus probe

Sydney, Australia, May 13 (efe-epa).- Trade tensions between China and Australia escalated further after Chinese measures against beef and barley imports from the Oceanic country, which are being viewed as retaliation for Canberra’s proposal to investigate into the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the weekend, China announced an anti-dumping investigation into Australian barley and threatened to impose an 80 percent tariff on the product and followed it up on Tuesday with a decision to suspend import of Australian beef for alleged breaches of its labeling and health certificate requirements.

Australia is seeking to resolve this tension diplomatically, but so far China has not responded to its request for dialog, Australian Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said Wednesday.

“I can’t tell why it hasn’t happened. I’m open, ready and willing to meet and discuss whenever we can,” he told the Nine Network.

Tensions between the two countries escalated after Australia called for a “transparent” investigation into the origin of the novel coronavirus, as well as China’s handling of the pandemic.

Within days of the proposal, Chinese ambassador to Australia, Cheng Jingye, suggested a possible boycott of Australian products, such as meat and wines, as well as services, in an interview with the Australian Financial Review.

Cheng warned that, if tensions escalated, “tourists may have second thoughts. The parents of the students would also think whether this place which they found is not so friendly, even hostile, whether this is the best place to send their kids here.”

The suspension of meat imports by China, Australia’s trading biggest partner, jeopardizes monthly sales of AU$200 million ($129 million), as well as raises fears about other potential reprisals against the dairy sector and other agricultural products.

“Two thirds of Australia’s farm production is exported. Almost one third of this, 28 per cent, is exported to China, including 18 percent of our total beef production and 49 percent of our barley,” National Farmers’ Federation President Fiona Simpson said in a statement.

“China is taking an aggressive stance to most countries as they are defensive over Covid-19 and Wuhan,” Tim Harcourt, an economist at the University of New South Wales, told EFE.

However, the economist added that China would continue to buy Australia “after a bit of sabre rattling” and recalled that some 12,000 Australian exporters sell directly or indirectly to China via Hong Kong, while another 3,000 companies are based in that country. EFE-EPA

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