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China’s bid to ‘weaponise trade’ crumbles

- SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Su-Lin Tan - OCT 8, 2021 -

China stepped up imports of Australian cotton and copper this year, despite imposing an unofficial ban on the products last November. Photo: Bloomberg
  • China has imported copper and cotton from Australia this year, despite imposing informal bans on the goods due to diplomatic tensions

  • Global supply shortages and political conflict forced China to turn to Australian imports, but there are few signs the trend will continue

China has imported US$30 million worth of Australian copper concentrate and increased purchases of cotton from the country amid international sanctions over Xinjiang, despite unofficially banning the products in November last year, Chinese trade data shows.

Chinese importers also snapped up the lion’s share of Australia’s bumper wheat harvest for the 2021-22 season, making it the country’s largest buyer just as global supplies fall.

Global shortages and political tensions have forced China to turn to Australian products, especially as its economy has bounced back from the coronavirus pandemic, although there are few signs the trend will be permanent.

Despite taking punitive trade action against Australia over several issues, including Canberra’s push for an independent investigation into the origins of the coronavirus, China will avoid shooting itself in the foot economically, said Stephen Olson, a former trade negotiator with the United States Trade Representative.

China will demonstrate pragmatism when it comes to balancing its economic prospects with its political interests, he said.

“Any punitive actions will be carefully calculated to maximise pain on Australia and minimise disruptions in China,” said Olson, who is also a senior research fellow at the Hinrich Foundation. “Given the high levels of trade and investment between China and Australia, this will not always be easy to do. “And the exact composition of the package of punitive actions will occasionally need to be reassessed and potentially adjusted to reflect evolving commercial and economic realities.”


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