Australia welcomes virus inquiry but condemns China tariff
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia on Tuesday welcomed international support for an independent coronavirus pandemic investigation as China ratcheted up a bilateral trade rift by placing tariffs on Australian barley.
The World Health Organization bowed to calls Monday from most of its member states to launch an independent probe into how it managed the international response to the coronavirus.
The “comprehensive evaluation,” sought by a coalition of African, European and other countries including Australia, is intended to review “lessons learned” from WHO’s coordination of the global response to COVID-19, but would stop short of looking into contentious issues such as the origins of the respiratory virus.
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne had earlier welcomed the apparent majority support for the motion, saying her government wanted the inquiry to be “impartial, independent and comprehensive.”
Australia is seen as a leader in rallying global support for an inquiry, attracting Chinese criticism that it is parroting the United States and inviting a Chinese boycott of exports and services. Australian government critics have argued that Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s conservative administration should have gathered allies before antagonizing Australia’s most important trading partner.
The trade dispute is the first time Beijing has used access to its huge markets as leverage in its campaign to deflect blame for the outbreak. But it has used the tactic regularly against governments from Norway to Canada in political disputes over the past decade.
China’s Ministry of Commerce announced tariffs of around 80% on Australian barley from Tuesday, a crop the Chinese argue is subsidised by the Australian government.
China banned beef imports from...