Spotlight on Geopolitics

Since 1945, Australia became a welcoming home for millions of desperate Europeans fleeing war-ravaged economies or communist rule. It’s now time for Europe to show similar solidarity and delay the ratification of the CAI with China, until such time as the authorities in Beijing give up their commercial punitive actions against Australia and live up to the free trade agreement they signed with Canberra in 2015.

Last December, Germany finalised a Comprehensive Agreement on investment with China on behalf of the EU, angering many EU members in the process. While somewhat understandable from a German government point of view, the speed with which the agreement was concluded and the opportunity to do so in the current context leave much to be desired.

Before signing it, officials should have taken clues from last year’s attack by the Chinese government on Australian exports. As dependent as Germany is on the Chinese market for a significant share of its exports, Australia has seen its barley, beef, wine, lobster, timber and even coal exports brutally affected by an official ban. China has revived its old imperial kow-tow policy, according to which countries around it could see their access to its market denied if the political leadership in Beijing feels slighted by them in any way.

Australia has displeased Beijing last year when it called for an international inquiry on the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic. The call was seconded at the time by the EU and is fully justified in scientific terms, even if the Chinese leadership preferred to give it a political spin. Soon thereafter the Chinese government started targeting Australian exports one after another on an almost monthly basis, trying to make an example of Australia should any other country try to follow in its footsteps. Problem is, Australia had signed a bilateral free trade agreement with China back in 2015, which should theoretically have protected the two countries’ companies from such unwarranted political disputes. It follows that concluding treaties with China is not worth the paper treaties are written on and will clearly not protect anyone .

The EU-China investment protection treaty ( CAI) should not be ratified until the Chinese government abandons such harmful commercial tactics with Western countries like Australia, with which they have a free trade agreement in force. In this case, Australia is no more and no less than the canary in the coalmine for the EU, blinded – as it were – by the false hope of enjoying normal economic relations with China.

Once it concludes major trade agreements, China succeeds in modernising and in boosting its own economy’s growth. However, it does so at the expense of its trading partners, as its record attests when examining its economic relations with first the USSR and then the US.

This is why Australia’s recent commercial predicament should be taken seriously in Brussels and should act as a powerful brake against the type of wishful thinking that disregards Chinese polity’s true nature and its hidden geopolitical agenda.

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