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19 May, 2021 12:16

Australia sees ‘great value’ in trade partnership with China, despite increasingly tense relations with Beijing

Australia sees ‘great value’ in trade partnership with China, despite increasingly tense relations with Beijing

Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison has highlighted the “great value” in Canberra’s trade partnership with Beijing, to deflect domestic criticism that he’s increasing tensions with China for “domestic political advantage.”

Speaking to Australian media, Morrison was responding to criticism from the country’s opposition Labor Party that he is damaging relations with China by engaging in increasingly tense rhetoric with the Asian nation without fully comprehending Australia’s interests there.

The comments from Labor Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong marked a shift in internal politics, as the opposition party had been supportive of Morrison’s stronger stance towards China around trade and activity in the South China Sea.

“The relationship still exists, look at trade alone – there have never been bigger volumes. That’s a bit of a proof point. When all is said and done, there’s still great value in the relationship,” Morrison said, defending his government’s actions.

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The positive assessment of Canberra-Beijing relations is a different tone to the one previously expressed by Australia’s Home Affairs Secretary, Mike Pezzullo, who'd warned in April that “the drums of war beat” in the Asia-Pacific region due to China’s recent activity.

China is Australia’s largest two-way trading partner, accounting for 29% of goods and services exported, and Beijing is the sixth-largest foreign direct investor in Canberra, making up AUS $46 billion (USD $35.61 billion) of investment.

Relations between Australia and China fell to their lowest point in history towards the end of 2020, as Beijing took offense at Canberra’s calls for an investigation into the origins of Covid-19, sparking a trade war between the two countries.

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