Beijing on Notice as 6 Nations Band Together to Condemn Economic Coercion

Beijing on Notice as 6 Nations Band Together to Condemn Economic Coercion
Australian beef is seen at a supermarket in Beijing on May 12, 2020. - China suspended imports from four major Australian beef suppliers on May 12, just weeks after Beijing's ambassador warned of a consumer boycott in retaliation for Canberra's push to probe the origins of the coronavirus. (Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images)

Beijing is on notice after six nations pledged to work together against economic coercion and non-market-oriented policies.

In a joint declaration released on June 9, the United States, UK, Canada, Australia, Japan, and New Zealand followed on from the G7 and condemned practices that harm world trade.

“Trade-related economic coercion and non-market policies and practices threaten the livelihoods of our citizens, harm our workers and businesses, and could undermine global security and stability,” the group said.

They said they were particularly concerned about how measures were being used to try to influence a foreign government’s decision-making process and the exercise of its sovereign rights.

“We urge all governments to refrain from the use of trade-related economic coercion and non-market policies and practices and to support free and fair trade based on open, market-oriented policies and principles that promote a level playing field and non-discriminatory treatment in international trade relations,” they said.

The group said it would begin working against the “discriminatory activities” of state-owned enterprises; the arbitrary use of regulation; forced technology transfer, and state-sponsored theft of trade secrets.

It comes just weeks after the G7 said it would collaborate to stop the rise of economic coercion.

“We will work together to ensure that attempts to weaponize economic dependencies by forcing G7 members and our partners, including small economies, to comply and conform, will fail and face consequences,” the G7 said.

Beijing’s Trade Sanctions Against Australia, Lithuania

This announcement follows U.S. envoy to Japan, Rahm Emanuel, calling on the international community to band together against the practice.
Economic coercion is political warfare by other means,” Emanuel said at an event at the University of Tokyo.

“If the world does not organize against economic coercion, Beijing will continue to prey on other countries and their economies, large or small, developed or developing, near or far,” he said.

The comments from Emmanuel come after countries like Australia and Lithuania bore the brunt of ongoing trade sanctions from Beijing.

Beijing’s campaign swept up eight of Australia’s major exports—beef, seafood, wine, honey, lamb, wheat, coal, and timber—after the previous Foreign Minister Marise Payne called for an inquiry into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic in April 2020.

The Chinese Communist Party also delivered a list of 14 “grievances” that the Australian government needed to give in to before diplomatic relations could normalize.

They include demands such as stopping the press from reporting negatively on China; stopping building alliances with Indo-Pacific partners; reversing the ban on Huawei from Australia’s 5G network; and removing foreign interference laws.

Meanwhile, Lithuania also saw trade sanctions applied on beef, dairy, and beer products after the country allowed Taiwan to open a de facto embassy on its grounds.

Forced Labor Comes Under the Spotlight

Meanwhile, the group of six hinted at targeting forced labor in global supply chains.

“All forms of forced labor are gross abuses of human rights, as well as economic issues, and it is a moral imperative to end these practices,” they said in the declaration.

“We are aware of countries using these practices to confer an unfair competitive advantage and affirm that there must be no place for such practices in the global trading system.”

India and China are regarded as having the world’s largest forced labor workforces.
In the case of China, the United Nations has said it is concerned Beijing is forcing minority groups like the Uyghurs into forced labor.

In a statement from 2021, the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights said Uyghur workers had reported being subjected to exploitative and abusive living conditions.

“Uyghur workers have allegedly been forcibly employed in low-skilled, labor-intensive industries, such as agribusiness, textile, garment, automotive and technological sectors,” stated Dante Pesce, chairperson of the Working Group.

“We nevertheless respectfully urge the government to immediately cease any such measures that are not fully compliant with international law, norms, and standards relating to human rights, including the rights of minorities.”

Victoria Kelly-Clark is an Australian based reporter who focuses on national politics and the geopolitical environment in the Asia-pacific region, the Middle East and Central Asia.
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