Australia says WTO should punish Chinese economic coercion.
The World Trade Organization should sanction bad behavior when it occurs, Australia’s prime minister said on Wednesday ahead of a meeting of leaders of the Group of Seven in Britain, where he hopes to gain support in a trade dispute with China.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia would work with others to strengthen the role of the World Trade Organization and modernize its regulations where necessary.
In my discussions with many leaders, I have received great encouragement from the support shown for Australia’s readiness to resist economic coercion in recent times, Morrison said in a speech delivered in the city of Perth, on Australia’s west coast, earlier leaving for the G7 meeting in Cornwall.
The Australian government announced in December that it would ask the WTO to intervene in its dispute with China over barley and hopes that other nations will become involved in the case.
China effectively ended Australian barley imports in May 2020 by imposing tariffs of more than 80 percent on the crop, accusing Australia of violating WTO rules by subsidizing barley production and selling the grain in China for below the cost of production.
Trade-in Australian seafood, timber, meat, wine, and coal has also been disrupted since Australia angered China by calling for an independent investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Geneva-based WTO, which sets the rules governing international trade, faces calls for restructuring and reform as it struggles to forge a long-awaited global trade pact.
A well-functioning WTO that sets clear rules, arbitrates disputes objectively, and efficiently penalizes misbehavior when it occurs. This may be one of the most powerful tools the international community has to counter economic coercion, Morrison said.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last month that the United States will not leave Australia alone to face coercion from China and that such behavior towards US allies will hamper the improvement of relations between Washington and Beijing.
Morrison said in his speech that the most practical way to address economic coercion would be to restore the WTO’s binding dispute resolution system.
Where there are no consequences for coercive behavior, there are few incentives for moderation, Morrison said.
The G-7 meeting provides an opportunity to point a way forward at a WTO ministerial conference on trade reforms in November, he said.