Premier’s plea to feds as trade war looms
PREMIER Annastacia Palaszczuk has warned thousands of Queensland jobs would be lost in a "full-blown" trade war with China, as local producers anxiously watched for signs of escalating tensions.
Ms Palaszczuk yesterday called on the Federal Government to urgently ratchet down trade tensions, while the state's seafood and dairy producers moved on to high alert for another strike against Australian exports, which government insiders believe would signal a clear escalation to a trade war.
It follows the Chinese Government's threat this week to impose a crippling 80 per cent tariff on Australian barley and suspend four major abattoirs, including three in Queensland, from exporting due to technical labelling and documentation breaches from 2019.
China has angrily rejected Australia's push for an international investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.
Morrison Government ministers continued to downplay the escalating tensions yesterday but hawkish backbenchers inflamed tensions in parliament by lashing the Chinese Government and the ruling communist party.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his government was engaging with China in "good faith".
"From time to time there will be differences in views and we will progress them constructively in the national interest," he said.
In April Chinese Ambassador Cheng Jingye warned pursuit of the coronavirus inquiry was "dangerous" and threatened Chinese consumers could boycott major Australian agricultural exports such as beef and wine.
Ms Palaszczuk said the tensions were "really serious" and she was concerned a trade war would damage Queensland's exports and threaten jobs and livelihoods.
"If we go into a full-blown trade war, this could mean over 3200 workers impacted," she said.
Queensland Dairy Organisation director Brian Tessmann said the state's farmers were not highly exposed on exports but were concerned of the ripple effects of a trade war on the industry.
"Any trade war that then affects the price in Victoria and the southern states will flow on up here and, at the very least, give an excuse for the processors to want to drop their prices so it does come back and effect Queensland dairy farmers," he said.
Queensland Seafood Industry Association board member David Caracciolo said a trade war would be devastating and a big worry for the industry in a year that had been "totally out of whack".
China makes up 26 per cent of Australia's fish exports and 79 per cent of crustacean exports.
Australian National University Strategic and Defence Studies Centre senior lecturer Amy King said China had a "long standing pattern of behaviour" of coercive trade behaviour.
However she pointed to recent actions against countries such as South Korea where China had applied sanctions but quietly backed down despite not winning any concessions.
"The lesson for China is that this approach to economic coercion doesn't usually work it's usually unsuccessful and if anything this hardens the views of countries and it brings some reputational cost to China as it makes countries like Australia a bit more nervous about trading with China," Dr King said.
Central Queensland Livestock Exchange operations manager Gavin Tickle said China was an important part of the beef supply chain but hoped the local industry was diverse enough to survive the 30-day ban.
"The Australian beef industry is pretty diverse, we supply a wide range of customers and obviously China is an important part of that supply chain," he said.
"But as in a lot of businesses when one market may close other opportunities may open up."
Originally published as Premier's plea to feds as trade war looms