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India takes aim at China’s trade coercion against Australia

Source : Bloomberg

India takes aim at China’s trade coercion against Australia
India’s foreign minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, has criticized China for its alleged economic coercion of Australia. (Photo: Reuters)

India’s Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar criticized China’s economic actions toward Australia in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, saying progress and prosperity over the past 80 years was the result of a trading system “governed by rules and not politically influenced.”

Trade ties with China, Australia’s largest trading partner, had nosedived since early 2020 when Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government called an independent investigation into the origins of the coronavirus.  Beijing retaliated with trade restrictions, including high tariffs on Australian barley and wine and slowing coal shipments. 

When asked by the paper whether Beijing’s actions toward Canberra constituted economic coercion, Jaishankar said, “You know that bit – if it looks like a duck and it walks like a duck.” 

The Chinese government has denied using trade coercion against Australia and other countries, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian insisting on Feb. 8 that China “always follows WTO rules.”

Jaishankar traveled to Melbourne, Australia, in the past week for a meeting of the Quad, a regional partnership made up of India, Japan, Australia and the U.S. intended to help democracies coordinate their response to the rise of China.

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Jaishankar said the Quad had all agreed that “politics should not be conducted by coercion at any time.”

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged the Quad to take a tougher stance toward the Chinese Communist Party’s growing antagonism in the region at the meeting on Friday, but added he didn’t consider war with Beijing inevitable. Jaishankar said the clash between India and China on their shared border had been discussed at the meeting.

The Quad discussions came as Australia’s Trade Minister Dan Tehan headed to India for meetings with his counterpart on a free trade agreement between the two countries. Jaishankar said in the interview with the paper that there should be “a much larger quantum of trade and investment between Australia and India.”

He said the pandemic had shown that in some cases trade had become too overly concentrated in a small number of partners.

Responding to Jaishankar’s comments in Australia, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters at a regular press briefing on Monday in Beijing: “We hope the Indian side will abide by our agreements and do not issue the irresponsible remarks and to uphold the peace and tranquility along the border region with concrete actions.” 

“As to the China-India relations, the merits of the matters are also very clear and responsibility doesn’t rest with China,” he added.

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