Australia’s treasurer says economy must diversify from China reliance

FILE PHOTO: Staff members chat as they prepare a seminar in Beijing
FILE PHOTO: Staff members chat as they prepare a seminar of Australia China bilateral cooperation in resources and infrastructure in West Australia, in Beijing July 23, 2009. REUTERS/Jason Lee/Files

September 11, 2021

(This story from September 6 corrects paragraph 8 to show exports hit a monthly, not full-year, record)

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia must diversify its economy to rely less on China, its largest trading partner, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said on Monday, as he warned businesses to brace for new tensions with Beijing.

Australia’s relations with China soured after it banned Huawei from its 5G broadband network in 2018 and cooled further after Canberra called for an independent investigation into the origins of COVID-19, first reported in China last year.

Beijing responded by imposing tariffs on Australian commodities, including barley, wine and grapes.

“It is no secret that China has recently sought to target Australia’s economy,” Frydenberg said in a speech in Canberra.

“Heightened strategic competition is the new reality we face, now and likely into the future.”

Frydenberg said businesses should look at new markets, which have been opened as a result of recent free trade agreements.

Australia’s A$2 trillion economy is at risk of entering its second recession in as many years as its largest states are in prolonged COVID-19 lockdowns.

Despite the diplomatic tensions, exports to China hit a record A$19.4 billion in July, up 72% from a year earlier, on the back of strong iron ore demand.

($1 = 1.3419 Australian dollars)

(Reporting by Renju Jose and Colin Packham; Editing by Sandra Maler, Jane Wardell and William Mallard)