China abruptly suspends economic dialog mechanism with Australia

On Thursday, in the latest setback to China-Australia relations, Beijing has “indefinitely” suspended all activities under a China-Australia Strategic Economic Dialogue, said its state economic planner.

“Recently, some Australian Commonwealth Government officials launched a series of measures to disrupt the normal exchanges and cooperation between China and Australia out of Cold War mindset and ideological discrimination,” said China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) in a statement.

Bilateral relations with the two countries were strained in 2018, when Australia, recognizing the threat posed by China’s Huawei publicly banned the Chinese tech giant which has a long list of allegations including having ties with the Chinese government and being a front for Chinese intelligence from its 5G network.

Australia also took the bold step of calling for an independent investigation into the origins of the Wuhan Coronavirus-induced COVID-19 pandemic which is severely impacting the growth of economies across the globe.

Dan Tehan, Australia’s trade minister, did not immediately respond to requests for comments.

The last meeting under the mechanism, intended as a framework for economic cooperation, was in Beijing in 2017.

In the 12 months to March, Australia exported goods worth A$149 billion to China, excluding services, the bulk of which was iron ore.

Last month Australia cancelled two deals struck by its state of Victoria with China on Beijing’s flagship Belt and Road Initiative; the move expectedly drew a sharp reaction from the Chinese embassy in Australia.

Australia is also taking steps to safeguard itself from China and is reviewing a 99-year lease of its port in the north to a Chinese firm, said a government source.

Earlier in December 2020, the Australian federal parliament granted itself veto power over foreign deals by states midst China imposing a series of trade sanctions on Australian products, ranging from wine to coal.

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