China dialogue move complicates Victorian lamb plant approvals

Terry Sim, May 7, 2021

The Australian Lamb Company and JBS Brooklyn remain caught up in the China-Australia diplomatic and trade tensions.

CHINA’S indefinite formal suspension of economic dialogue with the Australian Government is expected to complicate the resumption of lamb exports to China from two Victorian processing plants.

The National Development and Reform Commission of the People’s Republic of China yesterday proclaimed it is suspending indefinitely “all activities under (the) China-Australia Strategic Economic Dialogue.”

The proclamation on the NDRC’s website claimed that “some Australian Commonwealth Government officials recently launched a series of measures to disrupt the normal exchanges and cooperation between China and Australia out of Cold War mindset and ideological discrimination.”

“Based on the current attitude of the Australian Commonwealth Government toward China-Australia cooperation, the National Development and Reform Commission of the People’s Republic of China decides to indefinitely suspend all activities under the framework of the China-Australia Strategic Economic Dialogue jointly held by the National Development and Reform Commission of the People’s Republic of China and relevant ministries of the Australian Commonwealth Government,” the statement said.

In mid-2020, The Australian Lamb Company at Colac and JBS Australia at Brooklyn, working with the Australian Government, voluntarily suspended lamb shipments to China due to COVID-19 outbreaks among staff.

However, despite bringing the COVID-19 outbreaks under control and the plants resuming full operation with no further infections, the Australian Government has been unable to secure Chinese approval for the companies to resume sheep meat shipments.

In December last year, Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud said the government continued to raise the recommencement of sheep meat exports from the facilities with China through its agriculture councillors and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade officials in Beijing.

“We remain open to constructive engagement with China and will continue to press for a re-listing of these establishments as soon as possible.”

Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Dan Tehan said it is disappointing to hear that the NDRC has made this decision.

“The Strategic Economic Dialogue, which was last held in 2017, is an important forum for Australia and China to work through issues relevant to our economic partnership.

“We remain open to holding the dialogue and engaging at the ministerial level.”

Australian Meat Industry Council chief executive officer Patrick Hutchinson said there has been no change to the current suspensions “due to no dialogue on any and all meat establishment issues with China, which has been in place for some time.”

“One assumes that this move is a public acknowledgement of that,” he said.

Executives from the Australian Lamb Company and JBS Brooklyn either did not wish to comment on the situation or were not available.

And what about wool…

The likelihood of any impact of the NDRC decision on Australia’s wool trade with China is yet to be determined.

However, the Australian chairman of the Australia/China Joint Working Group for Wool, David Michell, said the commercial relationship between the two country’s industries is a strong and positive one.

“We have (or are) mastering the cross border video conferencing processes to keep communication channels open.

“We have met via video link several times in the last 12 months and have conducted constructive, commercial discussions addressing improvements to contractual rules, shipping, demand and supply issues that impact both countries,” Mr Michell said.

“The atmosphere is cordial and does not seem to be impacted by political newspaper headlines.

“At this stage, there are no indications that this will change,” he said.

“Both the Australian and Chinese wool industry members are focussed on maintaining good, productive and stable commercial relationships.”

Sheep Central has also contacted the Chinese chair of the wool working group Madame Yang Xiaoxiong, who is also chairwoman of the Nanjing Wool Market.



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  1. Peter Small, May 7, 2021

    It is interesting to read David Michell’s positive comments about relationships with Chinese business.
    My experience with doing business with China is that the Chinese are exemplary. Perhaps, even more importantly, they regard Australians as trustworthy. In fact, some have told me they regard Australians as second to none. This is a huge trading advantage for Australia. An advantage that our ignorant politicians are prepared to trash for the sake of a few populist votes. Never again will Australia find a trading partner with the mutuality and potential of China. What we are risking is driving our nation into poverty, and for what, chest-beating over Taiwan?
    The US will no more go to war over Taiwan than it would over Australia. We have no strategic value to the US other than Pine Gap. It’s time Australian business leaders pulled our government into line before it is too late. Let’s face it, a handful of hawks in our defence and intelligence community are threatening all our safety and economic security.
    For five thousand years China has been humiliated by the barbarians from north, south, east and west. And never again will they be humiliated. It’s best we understand this before it is too late. The US know they cannot win a war with China and will find a way to accommodate China. We risk being left out in the cold with all our valuable markets to China taken by our so called allies.
    Wake up Australia and start to think about how we become a proud independent nation no longer hanging on the coat tails of others.

    • Jim Gordon, May 8, 2021

      Peter, my experience in China in 2017 was the same. I found the Chinese up front and wanting to engage. They have made the effort to learn English. We had cause to use the train system and I found the commuters courteous and respectful. Often we would see a young person stand for older folk. Also, walking about at night one felt very safe.
      The old adage is one has to have respect for all things in life; you can’t buy it or steal it, people give it to you. You just have to tell the truth and do what you say you are going to do. No green-washing of mulesing.

      • Peter Small, May 8, 2021

        Jim, it is a pity more Australians, particularly our political class, didn’t travel to China as you have done and experience for themselves the people who are industrious, courteous and respectful, particularly of the elderly. Australians have some warped view fed to them by our media, that China is some Stalinist state. As Geoff Raby describes in his excellent book, “China’s Grand Strategy and Australia’s future in the New Global Order”, which we should all read, China has three absolute priorities: the preservation of the Communist Party, the security of its borders and the freedom of its trade routes. China won’t ever be humiliated again. The more America and its allies rattle the war machine, the more China will be forced to spend on protecting its strategic interests. If we keep poking the bear for long enough we will surely get what we deserve.
        This is serious stuff and all Australians who cherish their security and safety need to do their bit in giving our local members of parliament a good hard wake up call.

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