Western Australia (WA) Premier Mark McGowan has said that Prime Minister Scott Morrison should be more careful in speaking about China, following Morrison’s calls for the World Trade Organization (WTO) to mediate global economic coercion.
Ahead of the G7 meeting, Morrison addressed the need for the WTO to “modernise its rulebook,” advocating for a “free and fair rules-based system for international trade founded on open markets.”
“Australia stands ready to engage in dialogue with all countries on shared challenges, including China when they are ready to do so with us,” Morrison said.
WA Premier McGowan said he was confused by Morrison’s announcement and defended Beijing as simply acting in its best interest.
“I don’t understand why he would be doing that,” McGowan told 6PR. “You know, countries act in their own interests.”
McGowan also questioned the need for an international system reform when a significant portion of Western Australia’s and Australia’s economy depended on exports to China.
“We have a massive trade surplus with China, which basically generates hundreds of thousands of jobs for West Australians—and we are the beneficiaries of that,” McGowan said. “So I don’t understand why we would say the system isn’t working for us when we are in that position.”
Despite a global post-pandemic landscape imbued with ever-growing debt, Western Australia’s iron trade with China has teed up the state for a strong recovery and is set to deliver a budget surplus of around $5 billion for 2020-21, ABC reported.
In particular, McGowan stated that around 60 percent of WA’s products were sold to China—generating a trade surplus of about $96 (US$74) billion—and that the state’s trade was a major contributing factor to the nation’s economy.
“You don’t support the nation unless you have customers, and our biggest customer is China. So I just think that our language should be very nuanced,” McGowan said.
“We just need to be very careful in relation to our language and the way we approach these things because we could be the big losers out of it.”
However, Australian Strategic Policy Institute Director of Defence, Strategy and National Security, Michael Shoebridge, said that the push to retain strong trading ties was not detached from other political consequences.
“Saying engagement with a foreign power has no strategic or foreign policy dimensions but is simply about jobs and economics is now patently untrue, particularly in the case of engaging with the China market and the Chinese government,” Shoebridge previously told The Epoch Times.
“Right now, Beijing is also using trade as a coercive weapon against Australia in ways that make a comprehensive strategic partnership nonsense.”
McGowan had previously expressed a willingness to cooperate with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), including most recently after meeting with the CCP’s newly appointed consul-general in the state’s capital, Perth, last month.