Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Beijing calls for Canberra’s help to counter US on trade

Beijing calls for Canberra’s help to counter US on trade

Chinese Ambassador to Australia Cheng Jingye. Picture: Kym Smith
Chinese Ambassador to Australia Cheng Jingye. Picture: Kym Smith
Beijing has issued a fresh call for Canberra to sign up to the Belt and Road Initiative and suggested Australia team up with China to push back against Donald Trump’s “unfair” attacks over trade.
The move comes as the US ramps up its trade war with China after multi-billion dollar tariffs came into force late last week, and as Beijing asked the EU to form a trade alliance against the US.
China’s Ambassador to Australia Cheng Jingye delivered the speech yesterday at the One Belt One Road in Australia conference in Darwin.
“We are determined to work with other countries around the globe, including Australia, to uphold free trade and (the) multilateral trading regime,” he said.
Australia avoided Mr Trump’s new tariffs on steel and aluminium imports that have hit Europe, but the US has launched a national security investigation into car and truck imports that could lead to new tariffs on Australian car-part makers.
Australian officials were present when more than 40 World Trade Organisation members laid out their complaints about the car tariffs at a meeting of the WTO’s Council for Trade in Goods last week. China has been attempting to get nations such as Australia to sign up to the trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative. The Australian revealed last year Canberra has so far refused to sign up, which has upset Beijing.
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade secretary Frances Adamson explained that Australia supported more infrastructure in the region in principle but was apprehensive about the transparency, rules and governance arrangements of the scheme. Many in Australia’s defence community and some Australian government ministers are fiercely against the BRI, and believe it is a strategic play to expand China’s military links and force small countries into a dependent relationship with Beijing through debt.
Ambassador Cheng Jingye refuted those claims in his speech, saying the BRI has “nothing to do with geopolitics” and it will not just benefit China. “Instead of China’s solo performance, it is a symphony played by all participants,” he said. “We do not impose business deals on others …. Extensive consultation means that all countries, big or small, join the discussion of Belt and Road co-operation on an equal footing.”
He said the BRI was based on the rule of law and that China would set up a “legal network” to deal with disputes that arise out of projects associated with the scheme.
Mr Cheng said the “BRI is not far away from Australia” and that Australia had a “role to play” in the project, suggesting signing up would improve the icy Beijing-Canberra relationship.
“The close and strong trade and investment relations as well as people-to-people links between China and Australia provide necessary conditions for both sides,” he said.