Australia and the US should work together to build “resilience to China’s economic coercion”, according to a new report, which also argues that Joe Biden’s trade policy is not substantially different from Donald Trump’s America First mantra.
The report – published by the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney – says Australia and the US have increased cooperation on the defence industry, technology and critical minerals, and the Aukus security pact shows that the Biden administration understands the need to work more closely with allies.
But even though the administration has pledged not to leave Australia “alone on the field” in the wake of Beijing’s trade actions, the report’s author Stephen Kirchner observes that China’s commitment to purchasing US goods under a Donald Trump-negotiated “Phase 1” trade deal “continues to damage Australia’s interests”.
The report, titled “A geoeconomic alliance: The potential and limits of economic statecraft”, says the US “has largely dealt itself out of the emerging Indo-Pacific regional trade architecture” by opting out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Kirchner, the international economy director at the US Studies Centre, warns that cooperation between Australia and the US on industry policy, supply chain security and critical minerals “are all vulnerable to being undermined by the US domestic political process”.
He argues that Australia, as a small open economy potentially vulnerable to economic coercion, should focus on engaging the US with reforming the World Trade Organization, while continuing to invest in the international trade promotion and trade defence architecture.
Australia is challenging China’s tariffs on barley and wine through the WTO:
A multilateral approach to fostering resilience to China’s economic coercion should remain a paramount priority for both US and Australian policymakers.