Australia offers Europe a warning on a trade deal with China



Zoya Sheftalovich and Ryan Heath | Politico

SYDNEY — The EU and China have struck their long-awaited investment deal — but what is Beijing’s signature worth when it comes to trade pacts, and what does it cost?

Australia, which has descended into a nasty trade fight with China, its biggest trading partner, has some uncomfortable answers for the Europeans on these questions.

The bottom line: top-level politics trumps trade every time. Canberra’s experience shows the pitfalls of trying to balance economic policy with national security, regional politics and other interests. Many observers say a multilateral approach would be more effective than bilateral agreements in dealing with China and its “wolf-warrior” style of diplomacy, named after a popular Chinese action film.

Canberra’s landmark free-trade agreement with Beijing, signed in 2015, has done little to shield Australia from a politically motivated onslaught against its exports from the Chinese government. Despite the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA), Beijing has hit Australia with a series of trade restrictions since Canberra last April called for an independent investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, which emerged from the Chinese city of Wuhan.

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