Tony Abbott: China using trade as a ‘weapon’

LONDON — China is using trade as a “weapon” and Britain and its allies must stop technology sales to the Asian power and reorient essential supply chains away from it, Australia’s former Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Tuesday.

“The Beijing government sees trade as a strategic weapon to be turned on and off, like a tap,” said Abbott, an adviser to the UK Board of Trade, during a speech on strategic trade at the think tank Policy Exchange.

Australia, he pointed out, is being punished by prohibitive tariffs on its exports like wine, beef and hay in an increasing trade war over its unwillingness to play to China’s geopolitical interests.

China, Abbott said, is “asserting itself, aggressively in what is, at best, a cold peace, and more likely a new Cold War.” He called China a strategic competitor “far more formidable than the old Soviet Union” because it is embedded in the global economy.

The purchase of Welsh computer chip firm Newport Wafer Fab by Chinese state-backed firm Nexperia “would not go ahead were it happening in Australia,” he said. The U.K. is now investigating the sale after British lawmakers raised concerns over potential technology transfers.

Abbott also called for British and Australian allies to conduct national supply chain audits post-pandemic and use government procurement to “keep a sufficiently sophisticated manufacturing base to produce the essential goods.”

Pressed after the speech on whether she agrees with her adviser, U.K. Trade Secretary Liz Truss said Britain and its allies should “challenge” China’s “unfair” trade practices at the World Trade Organization and “expand trade between like-minded allies.”

This article is part of POLITICO’s premium policy service Pro Trade. From transatlantic trade wars to the U.K.’s future trading relationship with the EU and rest of the world, Pro Trade gives you the insight you need to plan your next move. Email [email protected] for a complimentary trial.

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