China suspends economic dialogue with Australia

A woman walks by the Australian Embassy in Beijing. China on Thursday, May 6, 2021 suspended an economic dialogue with Australia, stepping up a pressure campaign that began over Australian support for a probe into the origins of the coronavirus. - AP

SYDNEY?BEIJING, May 6 (dpa): China has suspended strategic economic dialogue with Australia indefinitely, with Beijing accusing Canberra of a "Cold War mindset."

The move comes shortly after the Australian government scrapped two Belt and Road Initiative agreements with China.

China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said in a short statement on Thursday it would suspend all activities under the China-Australia Strategic Economic Dialogue framework set up in 2014.

The NDRC said its decision was based on the "current attitude" of the Australian government.

"Recently, some Australian Commonwealth Government officials launched a series of measures to disrupt the normal exchanges and cooperation between China and Australia out of Cold War mindset and ideological discrimination," the statement said.

China is Australia's largest trading partner.

The two countries have been locked in a trade dispute that escalated last year and saw China hit Australian wine, beef, barley and coal with trade tariffs and customs delays.

However, it is unclear whether the most recent move will have any practical effect.

Beijing was already refusing high-level meetings, according to Australian newswire AAP.

The last time both sides met under the economic dialogue was in September 2017.

Analyst Jeffrey Wilson from the Perth USAsia Centre told Australian broadcaster ABC the suspension would have "zero substantive effect" because Beijing has already placed sanctions so widely on Australian exporters over the last year.

"By going thermonuclear in 2020, China now has no substantive forms of leverage over Australia, and has to resort to largely meaningless acts of symbolism," Wilson said. - dpa
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