Australia attacks China trade block at WTO

China is undermining agreed trade rules, Australia's ambassador to the World Trade Organisation says
China is undermining agreed trade rules, Australia's ambassador to the World Trade Organisation says

Australian officials have lashed out against China's harsh trade policies against the nation, warning the economic punishment measures risked undermining global confidence in Beijing.

In a strongly worded statement to the World Trade Organisation, Australia's ambassador George Mina said China was increasingly testing global trade rules.

The rebuke comes after China slapped export bans on a range of Australian products such as barley, coal, lobster, wine and cotton, as part of an ongoing economic dispute.

"The implications of China's actions go beyond their impact on Australian exporters, they raise the risk and uncertainty of the China market for the global business community," Mr Mina said in the statement.

"By undermining agreed trade rules, China also undermines the multilateral trading system on which all WTO members rely.

"China says these actions reflect legitimate concerns; but there is a growing body of information that demonstrates China's actions are motivated by political considerations."

The comments to the WTO were made as part of a regular review of China's policies, 20 years after the country's accession into the organisation.

Trade Minister Dan Tehan said Australia still wanted to work with China, but indicated Beijing needed to answer questions on its trade approach.

"We haven't seen much change in the last 12 to 18 months, but that doesn't mean we don't keep putting forward our case," Mr Tehan told Sky News on Thursday.

"(The statement) calls out what we think are practices that are politically motivated, especially when it comes to barley, wine, coal, lobster and other exports that have been impacted."

Mr Tehan also indicated a resumption of coal exports to China could serve to end the country's energy crisis.

"We remain a willing seller of coal to China and it can help with the crisis," he said.

"China has an energy crisis and Australian coal was providing a secure supply of energy reserves ... but coal stopped overnight."

Mr Mina said the past 18 months had seen China implement "disruptive" trade measures against Australia.

He urged the WTO to implement its own trade policies in line with accepted international rules.

"As part of the large scale trade measures taken against Australia, there are credible reports that Chinese authorities have instructed importers not to purchase certain Australian products, contrary to WTO rules," the statement said.

"Several official Chinese statements have directly linked these trade actions to wider issues in our bilateral relationship.

"WTO rules do not permit a member - however large - to impose conditions such as these on trade with another member."

The statement to the WTO also quoted an official from China's foreign ministry who said China would not allow any country "to reap the benefits from doing business with China while groundlessly accusing and smearing China".

Relations between the two nations have soured in recent years, with Australian ministers being unable to communicate with their Chinese counterparts.

Australian Associated Press