“As I say, it’s not a reflection upon the Australian government. We are open to have that discussion, even where there are difficult issues to be discussed at any time.
“It’s for our counterparts around the world to decide whether or not they agree to the same standards of open dialogue and discussion.”
He said Australian businesses trading with Chinese customers would have to consider taking their products to other countries due to the changing risk profile.
“I would expect that many Australian businesses, off the back of some unpredictable regulatory interventions, such as those we’ve seen in the last couple of weeks, would start to consider whether the risk profile has changed, and may, therefore, look at other markets.”
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“The Australian government is always open for thoughtful and engaging dialogue with our international partners, including where we may disagree and it is ultimately up to them as to whether or not they decide to reciprocate in kind.”
Senator Birmingham said a “comprehensive” response to Beijing’s trade strikes had been lodged, part of an 18 month process the Morrison government argues is unrelated to the COVID-19 probe.
He said the response refuted claims Australia was subsidising local production or breaking international anti-dumping rules.
“We will have a look, if they do proceed to place duties in place, at the arguments they make and the rational they give. Based upon that, we will decide the next steps which make involve a WTO dispute.
“Australia has used WTO disputes with other valued partners around the world in recent years.”
Senator Birmingham criticised “unhelpful” comments by China’s ambassador to Australia, Cheng Jingye, threatening a consumer boycott of students and tourists in the wake of Foreign Minister Marise Payne’s calls for an international investigation into COVID-19.
Mr Cheng’s comments to The Australian Financial Review last month saw tensions between the two countries flare.
At the weekend, Australia secured European Union support for an independent inquiry, with EU Foreign Affairs High Representative and Vice President Josep Borrell describing a probe as critical.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has not stepped back from calls for an investigation.
“We are standing our ground on our values and the things that we know are always important,” he said on Friday.