Australia's trade relations with its major trading partner China deteriorated last year when Australia supported a call for an international inquiry into China's handling of COVID-19.
India could emerge as the next big trade market for Australian exporters, the country’s trade minister has said, after China imposed heavy tariffs and sanctions on several Australian export commodities amidst a strain in relations with Beijing.
Australia’s trade relations with its major trading partner China deteriorated last year when Australia supported a call for an international inquiry into China’s handling of COVID-19, which was first reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
China took several measures that restricted Australian imports, ranging from levying new tariffs to imposing bans. China imposed sanctions and tariffs on several Australian commodities including barley, timber, coal, cotton, wine and lobster.
Australia, for its part, asked the World Trade Organisation to mediate in their dispute over stiff duties on Australian barley in the Chinese market.
Australian Trade Minister Dan Tehan on Wednesday flagged India as its top priority while looking at new trade opportunities across the globe.
“We haven’t had a formal trade ministers meeting with China for over three years, this is something we have been seeking to constructively engage with China for over three years,” he said.
“Looking to really boost the relationship with India, there’s enormous opportunities there. We have to be patient but we have to be very proactive with India,” he said.
He said that Japan, Vietnam, the new Joe Biden administration in the US, all present many opportunities for Australia and that’s what he will be focussing on, as well as seeking to constructively engage with the Chinese.
Tehan said, ”The India relationship — which is incredibly important to us, and I’d really like to prioritise that — is something we’re going to have to be patient about.”
China is Australia’s largest trading partner accounting for over a third of all Australian exports, worth more than 150 billion Aus dollars a year while trade with India stands at over 30 billion Aus dollars.
On Wednesday, Australian treasurer Josh Frydenberg lashed out at China’s recent actions on imposing sanctions and tariffs and said “Well, we agree with that sentiment that big nations should not bully small ones but there seems to be a bit of a disconnect between the words and the actions.”
“The reality is, Australia has been on the receiving end of some pretty harsh actions when it comes to our trade.”