Australia poised to fight back against Chinese trade war by AXING a lucrative research agreement

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Australia could be set to strike back at China as the two nations continue to engage in an ugly trade war, as ministers consider scrapping a widely-touted research agreement. 

The ongoing deal, signed off in 2015, sees grants of up to $200,000 handed out to Victorian universities and companies to share research and data.

But the agreement could be axed by the federal government, ending the deal with China’s Jiangsu province which sees intellectual property and new product development shared across the two nations.  

Relations between Australia and China have dramatically soured since Prime Minister Scott Morrison called for an independent inquiry into the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic from its source in the Chinese city of Wuhan back in April.

In a seemingly tit-for-tat response, a furious China has imposed a raft of trade measures on Australian products from barley to beef, recently adding timber to the list.

China’s President Xi Jinping (pictured above) has been critical of Australia after PM Scott Morrison called for an investigation into the origins of the coronavirus

Dr Paul Monk, former head of China analysis in Australia’s Defence Department (pictured above) is concerned about China’s motives when dealing with Australia

There are mounting fears the Victoria-Jiangsu Program for Technology and Innovation Research and Development could not be in the best interests of Australia’s national affairs. 

According to The Age, recent legislation introduced by the federal government in December sees the Commonwealth able to cancel agreements with foreign powers if the deals are perceived as harmful.

Dr Paul Monk, the former head of China analysis in Australia’s Defence Department, said the current Jiangsu deal could see Chinese government officials blatantly take advantage of Australia. 

‘For this deal to be getting promoted by the Chinese government, there is likely to be something we can provide that they want – otherwise they would do it themselves,’ he said.

‘So we must ask: what [intellectual property] do we bring to the table that they are seeking?’

The current terms of the Jiangsu deal see a number of Australian entities frequently travel to the region for research and development in sectors such as aerospace, biotechnology and medicine. 

Former Trade Minister Simon Birmingham recently lodged an official complaint with the World Trade Organisation in relation to Beijing’s conduct in the ongoing trade dispute Australia and China.

‘We have a series of different actions that China has taken during the course of the year and each come with slightly different criteria for how you might respond at the WTO,’ he said earlier this month.

China imposed a 212 per cent import tax on Australia wine in November, as trade wars continue to escalate (pictured, Australian wine on sale in Beijing in December)

The ugly trade war has escalated to include export industries such as beef, lobster, timber, lamb and coal (pictured, a cattle farmer in Queensland)

‘The application of pressure on [markets] in the Chinese system where businesses within China are state-owned enterprises, being discouraged from purchasing Australian goods [is one].

In May this year, China imposed 80 per cent tariffs on barley, prompting an official complaint to the WTO from Mr Birmingham this month.

Australian wine also incurred 212 per cent import taxes in November, following months of trade intimidation against beef, lobster, timber, lamb and even coal exporters. 

How China’s feud with Australia has escalated

2019: Australian intelligence services conclude that China was responsible for a cyber-attack on Australia’s parliament and three largest political parties in the run-up to a May election.

April 2020: Australian PM Scott Morrison begins canvassing his fellow world leaders for an inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic. Britain and France are initially reluctant but more than 100 countries eventually back an investigation.

April 15: Morrison is one of the few leaders to voice sympathy with Donald Trump’s criticisms of the World Health Organization, which the US president accuses of bias towards China.

April 21: China’s embassy accuses Australian foreign minister Peter Dutton of ‘ignorance and bigotry’ and ‘parroting what those Americans have asserted’ after he called for China to be more transparent about the outbreak.

April 23: Australia’s agriculture minister David Littleproud calls for G20 nations to campaign against the ‘wet markets’ which are common in China and linked to the earliest coronavirus cases.

April 26: Chinese ambassador Cheng Jingye hints at a boycott of Australian wine and beef and says tourists and students might avoid Australia ‘while it’s not so friendly to China’. Canberra dismisses the threat and warns Beijing against ‘economic coercion’.

May 11: China suspends beef imports from four of Australia’s largest meat processors. These account for more than a third of Australia’s $1.1billion beef exports to China.

May 18: The World Health Organization backs a partial investigation into the pandemic, but China says it is a ‘joke’ for Australia to claim credit. The same day, China imposes an 80 per cent tariff on Australian barley. Australia says it may challenge this at the WTO.

May 21: China announces new rules for iron ore imports which could allow Australian imports – usually worth $41billion per year – to be singled out for extra bureaucratic checks.

June 5: Beijing warns tourists against travelling to Australia, alleging racism and violence against the Chinese in connection with Covid-19.

June 9: China’s Ministry of Education warns students to think carefully about studying in Australia, similarly citing alleged racist incidents.

June 19: Australia says it is under cyber-attack from a foreign state which government sources say is believed to be China. The attack has been targeting industry, schools, hospitals and government officials, Morrison says.

July 9: Australia suspends extradition treaty with Hong Kong and offers to extend the visas of 10,000 Hong Kongers who are already in Australia over China’s national security law which effectively bans protest.

August 18: China launches 12-month anti-dumping investigation into wines imported from Australia in a major threat to the $6billion industry.

August 26: Prime Minster Scott Morrison announces he will legislate to stop states and territories signing deals with foreign powers that go against Australia’s foreign policy. Analysts said it is aimed at China.

October 13: Trade Minister Simon Birmingham says he’s investigating reports that Chinese customs officials have informally told state-owned steelmakers and power plants to stop Aussie coal, leaving it in ships off-shore.

November 2: Agriculture Minister David Littleproud reveals China is holding up Aussie lobster imports by checking them for minerals.

November 3: Barley, sugar, red wine, logs, coal, lobster and copper imports from Australia unofficially banned under a directive from the government, according to reports.

November 18: China releases bizarre dossier of 14 grievances with Australia.

November 27: Australian coal exports to China have dropped 96 per cent in the first three weeks of November as 82 ships laden with 8.8million tonnes of coal are left floating off Chinese ports where they have been denied entry.

November 28: Beijing imposed a 212 per cent tariff on Australia’s $1.2 billion wine exports, claiming they were being ‘dumped’ or sold at below-cost. The claim is denied by both Australia and Chinese importers.

November 30: Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lijian Zhao posted a doctored image showing a grinning Australian soldier holding a knife to the throat of an Afghan child. The move outraged Australians .

December 12: Australian coal is added to a Chinese blacklist.

December 24: China suspends imports of Australian timber from NSW and WA after local customs officers say they found pests in the cargo.