China hits back after US backs Australia over trade

BEIJING • China said yesterday that the United States should correct its mistakes instead of making baseless comments, after US Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai backed Australia in trade disputes with China.

The US' comments are wrong, and the tensions in China and Australia relations are caused by Australia's interference in Chinese internal affairs, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian.

The US is "closely monitoring" trade tensions between Australia and China and will support Canberra in addressing China's state-led, non-market practices, Ms Tai told her Australian counterpart Dan Tehan on Wednesday.

The USTR said in a statement that following Ms Tai's meeting with Mr Tehan, the two ministers agreed to continue working to develop a digital trade policy that addresses the needs of workers and recognises "the importance of collaboration among those with open, free, democratic systems".

Trade tensions between Australia and China, already rocky after Australia banned Chinese telecoms giant Huawei from its 5G wireless network in 2018, worsened since Canberra called for an international inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus, first reported in central China last year.

China, Australia's largest trading partner, responded by imposing tariffs on Australian wine and barley and limited imports of Australian beef, coal and grapes - moves described by the United States as "economic coercion".

Australia last month challenged the wine duties at the World Trade Organisation.

In May, Mr Zhao said the responsibility for the decline in relations between Beijing and Canberra was "not at all China's" and that Australia should treat China with "objectivity" and "rationality".

The USTR said Ms Tai "conveyed that the United States stands with Australia to tackle this shared challenge and supports rules-based international trade to promote fair, market-oriented trade practices".

She also told Mr Tehan that the United States was committed to engaging with allies, including Australia, to address China's policies that harm US and Australian workers, businesses, and citizens.

The two ministers pledged to continue senior-level discussions on "economic coercion", the USTR said.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 23, 2021, with the headline 'China hits back after US backs Australia over trade'. Subscribe