Source: Global Times
File photo: Xinhua
While there is undeniably a certain amount of tension in China-Australia trade, it is still unfortunate to see bilateral trade sink into an atmosphere of paranoia that could escalate any normal trade issue into a political one.
According to some Australian media outlets, several tons of live Australian lobsters were stranded at a Chinese airport over the weekend due to clearance delays by Chinese customs, in what they called a “fresh blow” to Australian exports to China amid escalating bilateral trade tensions.
Some Australian media and politicians seem to have gotten used to taking every trade problem with China as a sign of the so-called “China economic retaliation” theory. It has happened so often over the past few months that it seems that any economic woes or trade setbacks Australia faces could be traced back to “economic retaliation” by China.
Nevertheless, in many cases, such accusations or complaints reflect the arrogance of the Australian side in disrespecting Chinese laws and regulations. To some extent, the hype about China’s “economic sanctions” against Australia could be seen as efforts to pressure China into addressing Australia’s export difficulties and granting its companies special treatment.
The lobster issue is a typical example. It is still unclear what exactly caused the clearance delay or how long it would last, but the Australian media outlets have been in a rush to make it sound like another case of economic retaliation following products like cotton, wine, beef and barley, which were once in the public spotlight.
According to The Sydney Morning Herald, more than 94 percent of $752 million in rock lobster exports from Australia went to China in 2018-19. In trade of this scale, a delay in customs clearance of individual batches of goods is totally understandable, and there are many factors that may contribute to such a delay. So far, there is no evidence of China’s targeted intervention against imports of Australian lobsters.
Looking at the big picture, the timing of the lobster clearance issue occurred just days before the opening of the third China International Import Expo. Of nearly 200 Australian companies that will take part in the event, many are seafood exporters that are looking forward to export and cooperation opportunities for high-end seafood products such as lobster, cod and abalone in China. Anyone with the basic knowledge of this situation would know that the possibility of lobsters being the victim of bilateral trade tensions is very low.
Further, amid a global pandemic, it is legitimate and reasonable for customs authorities to strengthen the inspection and quarantine of imported products and sometimes raise standards to better safeguard the health of the Chinese people. The same standards and measures adopted by customs officials are applied to all importers from various countries with no discrimination.
Through groundless hype about economic retaliation, the Australian side is actually asking for special clearance treatment for its goods. But if Chinese customs really granted it fast-track treatment, it would only constitute unfair treatment against aquatic imports from other countries.