Victoria protests directly to China over trade aggression
The Andrews Labor government says it has protested directly to the Chinese government over the nation’s escalating trade aggression towards Australia.
But Victoria’s Trade Minister Martin Pakula told a state Parliamentary committee on Thursday morning that the state’s controversial Belt and Road deal with China did not "immunise" Victoria from the new tariffs imposed on Australian exports.
Victorian Trade Minister Martin Pakula with Premier Daniel Andrews.Credit:Justin McManus
Mr Pakula said there had been a response to the representations but did not give details except to say that the tariffs were "self-evidently" still in place.
Nationals MP Danny O’Brien suggested the Belt and Road memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Victoria and China was worthless if it could not be used to resolve trade tensions.
"Given the MOU specifically talks about unimpeded trade and has a dispute mechanism that’s very basic, is it worth the paper that it is written on?" the Gippsland South MP asked.
Mr Pakula replied that the China Australian Free Trade Agreement (CHAFTA) was not proving effective in preventing one nation unilaterally imposing tariffs on the other’s goods.
"I would suggest … CHAFTA has pretty significant commentary in it in regards to unimpeded trade which would apparently not be being adhered to," Mr Pakula said.
"I’m sure the Commonwealth would not be contemplating tearing CHAFTA up as a consequence of the fact that there are tariffs being imposed, apparently in contravention on it."
Victoria signed a memorandum of understanding with China on the Belt and Road initiative in 2018.
The agreement sets out a number of areas of co-operation, including attempts to get more Chinese companies involved in Victoria’s massive $107 billion infrastructure "big build" and for companies from the state to get work on the Belt and Road projects around the world.
Premier Daniel Andrews has previously said the agreement would give Victorian firms the "inside running" on infrastructure projects in China and in other countries. The state renewed the agreement in October last year and was due to sign a third deal this year, which has been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
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