Australian diplomats have used a routine World Trade Organisation (WTO) review to criticize China’s trade policies, accusing the country of undermining the WTO and not delivering on promised economic reforms. The criticism is a consequence of China’s formal and informal sanctions against Australia, including tariffs, import suspensions and long delays at customs. Australia’s representative George Mina said China was testing global trade rules with its behaviour which has severely limited or ended trade across several Australian commodities. Mina said the implications of China’s actions goes beyond their impact on Australian exporters, raising the risk and uncertainty of the China market for the global business community – ultimately undermining the multilateral WTO trading system. The Australian representative said there were credible reports that Chinese authorities had instructed importers not to purchase certain products, which was contrary to WTO rules. By using the WTO Trade Policy Review to target China’s grey-zone trade punishments, the issue is no longer bilateral, but is rather whether China is a compliant member of the WTO.
Australia was not alone in its critique, Canada’s representative at the WTO trade policy review accused China of deploying economic coercive measures in response to political disagreements. Japan and the EU said China lacked transparency and used broad national security provisions to damage foreign companies. The US criticised China in failing to deliver on its WTO promise to liberalise its economy, saying the country instead doubled-down on its state-led economic model.