‘A lapdog of the US’: Chinese state media claims Donald Trump ‘coerced’ Scott Morrison into calling for a coronavirus inquiry and says Australia is only harming its own interests
- Chinese state media has accused Australia of ‘blindly following’ United States
- An article said Australia is serving as a US ‘pawn to create trouble for China’
- It suggests Mr Morrison was told by Donald Trump to start calls for virus inquiry
- But in reality Australia was pushing inquiry before the leaders spoke on phone
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
Chinese state media has claimed the US coerced Australia into calling for an inquiry into the origins and spread of coronavirus.
An article in the Global Times, a state-controlled tabloid newspaper, said Australia is America’s ‘lapdog’ and serving as a US ‘pawn to create trouble for China’.
It suggested President Donald Trump told Prime Minister Scott Morrison to call for an inquiry into the virus during their phone call on 22 April.
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump welcome Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his wife Jenny to an official dinner at the White House September 20, 2019
Mr Morrison has called for a ban on wildlife wet markets. Pictured: Xihua Farmers’ Market in Guangzhou
‘With the White House promoting the “America First” doctrine and intensifying its competition with China, Washington’s allies are increasingly required to help serve those goals,’ the article said.
‘What the US wants is not equal partners, but loyal followers. Forcing other countries to choose between Washington and Beijing, it is the current US government that is coercing and threatening’.
In fact, Australian foreign minister Marise Payne announced Australia’s demands for an independent inquiry on 19 April, three days before Mr Morrison spoke to President Trump.
The Prime Minister also called German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron on the same day as President Trump to urge them to support Australia’s push.
Mr Morrison said he could not rule out that the virus spawned in a lab in Wuhan, a theory touted by the US administration. Mr Morrison said he has not seen any evidence for that theory
Mr Morrison called Mr Trump on 22 April and later tweeted about the conversation
President Xi Jinping has agreed to a WHO investigation after more than 100 countries signed a motion demanding one at the World Health Assembly last week.
But Beijing was infuriated by Australia’s calls for an independent inquiry, believing that it was a ‘malicious’ attempt to blame and ‘stigmatize’ China.
Mr Morrison had demanded a ban on wildlife wet markets, where the virus may have originated, and said inspectors should be able to enter a country suffering from a pandemic without the government’s consent.
Last week China slapped an 80 per cent tariff on Australian barley and suspended imports from four Australian beef suppliers in apparent revenge.
As trade tensions mount, the Global Times article said Australia should stop ‘blindly following’ the US because doing so could harm its business relationship with China.
About one third of Australia’s total exports – including iron ore, gas, coal and food – go to China, bringing in around $135billion per year and providing thousands of jobs.
‘China’s importance to Australia is much bigger than that of Australia to China,’ the article said.
A haulage truck and an autonomous drilling rig at the Rio Tinto West Angelas iron ore mine in the Pilbara region of West Australia
However, the article also admitted China and Australia are ‘interdependent’ and no-one stands to benefit from a trade war.
On Tuesday fears of further retaliation were raised when China relaxed checks on iron-ore imports in a move that could favour Australia’s competitors.
Instead of mandatory inspections, China will now carry out optional checks at the request of the importer – meaning Australian goods could be targeted.
But the Australian government is hopeful the new rules will make life easier for Australian exporters as Chinese demand for iron-ore increases and supply from major producer Brazil is curtailed while the country battles a major virus outbreak.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke to President Donald Trump (pictured together in September) on the phone about how the World Health Organisation can ‘improve’
Mr Morrison and President Trump spoke on 22 April to discuss the World Health Organisation’s role in containing the spread of the virus.
In his tweets after the call, Mr Morrison wrote: ‘We had a very constructive discussion on our health responses to #COVID19 and the need to get our market-led and business-centred economies up and running again.
‘We also talked about the WHO and working together to improve the transparency and effectiveness of international responses to pandemics.
Mr Morrison signed off by praising Australia’s relationship with the United States.
‘Australia and the US are the best of mates and we’ll continue to align our efforts as we work towards the recovery on the other side of this virus,’ he wrote.
Trade minister tells wine and cheese exporters not to give China an excuse to ban their products
The federal trade minister has told wine and cheese exporters not to give Beijing any excuse to ban their products after beef suppliers were blacklisted over a technicality.
The federal government has denied barley tariffs and beef bans are payback for Australia’s demands for a coronavirus inquiry – but Trade Minister Simon Birmingham told Australian companies to make sure all their paper work is in order so that more industries cannot be targeted.
During an interview on 13 May, the ABC’s Patricia Karvelas asked him: ‘Australian wine and dairy producers are worried they could be next. What reassurances do you have that that won’t happen?’
Senator Birmingham replied: ‘Everyone at present should be, as they always should, dotting their Is and crossing their Ts and leaving no scope for any grievance to be raised.’
He said he could see no reason why wine or cheese industries would fall short of quarantine, health or labelling standards they need to meet to export to China.
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