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China issues trade warning shot

The decline of Australia’s trade with China may be the “most pressing issue” the Morrison government should worry about, according to Chinese state-owned media. The warning shot follows reports Chinese customs authorities have been telling companies to stop importing Australian coal as trade tensions continue between the countries.Prime Minister Scott Morrison was on Tuesday cautious,…

The decline of Australia’s trade with China may be the “most pressing issue” the Morrison government should worry about, according to Chinese state-owned media.

The warning shot follows reports Chinese customs authorities have been telling companies to stop importing Australian coal as trade tensions continue between the countries.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison was on Tuesday cautious, saying it was not uncommon for Beijing to implement domestic quotas to support local coal production.

But the Global Times later reported that a downward trend in trade between the two countries was unlikely to change in the near term due to the political stalemate.

“The overall decline of Australia’s trade with China and its implications for the Australian economy may be the actual most pressing issue the Morrison government should feel anxious about,” it wrote.

“As Canberra adopts an increasingly hostile approach toward China, bilateral relations have deteriorated rapidly, and businesses now prefer to take a cautious attitude toward investment and trade between the two sides.

“Rather than accusing China of economic coercion, Australian politicians and economists need to recognise that the real cause of the trade slump is the loss of market confidence.”

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Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said the government had contacted China through diplomatic channels.

But the Chinese state-owned media outlet went on to say that Australia had “repeatedly” engaged in political and economic manoeuvres that were apparently unfriendly to China or Chinese businesses.

“The Australian government needs to take responsibility for souring relations and the losses of Australian exporters,” the Global Times wrote.

“Only when the China-Australia relationship gets out of the doldrums can the market restore confidence in bilateral trade.”

China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said it had been consistent and clear about the relationship with Australia.

“Sound and stable China-Australia ties serve the common interests of both, but it takes efforts from both sides,” he said.

“We hope Australia can work together with China for the same goal, uphold mutual respect and equality, and do more things conducive to advancing bilateral co-operation and mutual trust and in keeping with the two sides’ comprehensive strategic partnership.”

Trade tensions between Australia and China have flared again in recent months after China launched an investigation into Australia wine imports.

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