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.