As the spat between China and Australia intensifies, Beijing is fighting back tooth and nail to dwindle the Australian economy by banning its imports.
Wheat is now set to join the list of banned imports that already include barley, sugar, red wine, timber, coal, lobster, copper ore and copper concentrates, reported SCMP citing industry sources.
Although no formal ban has been communicated yet, the report stated that Beijing will communicate it to Chinese state-owned and private traders.
“Chinese importers have been told to obey these rules strictly and suspend all orders for commercial reasons,” said a trade source in China. “Shipments arriving at the port before Friday will be released, but those arriving after will stay at port. It does not matter if it is already in the bonded area.”
Australia’s participation in the Quadrilateral or the Quad – an informal strategic forum between the United States, Japan, Australia, and India, is seen by Beijing as an anti-China group to deter its strategic missions.
Further, Canberra’s vehement call for an independent inquiry into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, which first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan, infuriated Beijing resulting in further deterioration of ties between the two nations.
Although China is Australia’s biggest trading partner, Australia was the first country to ban China’s Huawei from its 5G network in 2017. The events of this year have further soured diplomatic relations between the two.
China imports A$560 million (US$394 million) worth of wheat from Australia although Barley is the biggest import worth around A$1.2 billion (US$843 million) a year, which has already been banned.
In a report by Reuters, Beijing claimed that reduced imports of Australian products like wine, coal, and sugar were the result of buyers’ own decisions.
According to the report, last week China started new customs inspections on Australian lobster, halted imports of timber from northeastern Queensland state, and banned barley shipments from grain exporter Emerald Grain, which is one of the largest grain marketing and supply chain businesses in Australia.
Australian Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said that Canberra is in contact and is making inquiries with Chinese authorities to seek clarity and to encourage them to address areas of concern.
Analysts believe that amid ongoing uncertainty, Australia has come to realize the need to diversify its imports to other Asian countries as well.
“It’s difficult to see how the current situation — the worst global recession in living memory — could be viewed as an opportunity for Australia to reduce its reliance on the world’s second-largest economy, and the only major economy to be recording positive rates of GDP growth this year,” Jane Golley, director of the Australian Centre on China in World at Australian National University, told DW.
Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a security think tank, said in its report that China used “coercive diplomacy” against 27 countries and the European Union in the last 10 years.
“The coercion was in response to things like countries calling Beijing out for its treatment of minorities in Xinjiang, blocking Huawei’s 5G technology, questioning its territorial claims or hosting the Dalai Lama,” said the report.