20 May Morrison victory in China fight
Tom Minnear – The Herald Sun – Wednesday 20 May 2020
THE World Health Assembly last night approved an independent coronavirus inquiry, delivering Australia a major strategic victory after the Morrison Government initially led calls for the probe.
Chinese President Xi Jinping conceded on Monday night a “comprehensive” review was needed.
The resolution to establish an inquiry – which will begin as soon as possible – passed late last night Australian time with no objections.
China had responded angrily to Australia’s push for the inquiry last month and, in what was seen as a tactical response, slapped a massive 80 per cent tariff on Australian barley exports from yesterday, which is expected to wipe out $600 million in sales.
Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas shocked the federal government yesterday by essentially blaming its handling of Australia’s relationship with China for the imposition of the tariffs.
“I don’t think it would come as a surprise to anybody that this was the consequence of the way the federal government has conducted themselves,” Mr Pallas said.
“I think I’ve been pretty clear that I’m not a big fan of the way the federal government has managed the relationship with China.” Victorian Liberal Senator James Paterson hit back, telling the Herald Sun: “If Tim Pallas can’t bring himself to back Team Australia in a trade dispute then he should keep his thoughts to himself.
“We already have enough people running Chinese Communist Party talking points.” While Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne described the coronavirus inquiry as a win for the international community, Beijing’s embassy in Canberra yesterday said it was “totally different” to what Australia had proposed. “To claim the WHA’s resolution a vindication of Australia’s call is nothing but a joke,” it said.
The federal government is now leaning towards lodging a dispute over the barley tariffs with the World Trade Organisation, but that could take years to arbitrate.
Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said he was “deeply, deeply disappointed” by China’s decision.
“It appears to have been based and without a proper understanding of the facts or the evidence, it just doesn’t stack up in terms of any analysis of Australian farming and our barley production to suggest that our exporters engage in dumping of products or unduly subsidised,” Senator Birmingham said.
The minister said it was “very disappointing” his Chinese counterpart had refused to return his calls to talk about the issue.