In the latest escalation of trade tensions between Australia and China, as of today, November 6, Chinese traders will be barred from importing at least seven different categories of Australian goods. While severe, this is only a further step in the declining trade spiral. Over the last few weeks, items such as barley, beef, coal, cotton, wine and others have been the target anti-subsidy measure or were subject to delayed deliveries. Although Beijing has cited quality issues with certain Australian goods, the escalation of trade restrictions is more than likely in retaliation for political statements and positions the Australian government has taken this year towards China.
Under the Morrison government, Australia was the first country to ban Chinese tech giant Huawei from developing its 5G network. Separately, Chinese political influence in the country has also been a hotly debated topic, with ten percent of Australia’s university places being occupied by Chinese international students and Beijing backing of an estimated dozen of the increasingly controversial Confucius Institutes at Australian public universities. (see also Fortress article on the Confucius Institute). Recently proposed legislation in Australia aimed at countering interference and influence from a foreign government would empower the government to review foreign arrangements with Australian public entities, including universities and potentially demand changes to them.