Australia PM to press G7 on trade rules reform to rein in China

An overhaul of global trade rules is essential to stopping economic coercion, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison was expected to say Wednesday, in comments aimed at China ahead of his meeting with G7 leaders.

As Australia’s shadow trade war with its largest trading partner shows few signs of abating, Morrison will tell the Perth USAsia Centre that the global rules-based order is “under strain”.

“The most practical way to address economic coercion is the restoration of the global trading body’s binding dispute settlement system,” says his speech, seen by AFP.

“Where there are no consequences for coercive behaviour, there is little incentive for restraint.”

Beijing has imposed harsh economic sanctions on a range of Australian products in recent months, including tariffs or disruption across several agricultural sectors, coal, wine and tourism.

Many in Canberra believe the measures are punishment for pushing back against Chinese influence operations in Australia, rejecting Chinese investment in sensitive areas and publicly calling for an investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

Morrison’s comments will come ahead of the G7 Summit in Cornwall, southern England, where Australia has been invited as a guest nation to participate in the “G7 Plus” talks.

Morrison plans to use the event as an opportunity to work with leading nations to “modernise” the WTO rulebook, ahead of its ministerial conference in November.

Australia has launched WTO action over Chinese tariffs on barley imports, but the case could take years to resolve.

With climate change expected to rank high on the agenda at the G7’s first in-person meeting in nearly two years, Morrison also appears set to resist international pressure to commit Australia to a target to become carbon-neutral.

Australia will instead focus on “how we succeed and prosper” in a global economy moving toward net-zero without putting local jobs and industries at risk, he is expected to say Wednesday.

“It’s about how Australia best advances our interests as part of a world that is dealing with climate change.”

Australia is one of the world’s largest producers of coal and natural gas, but has also suffered extreme droughts, floods and bushfires in recent years that scientists say are being worsened by climate change.

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