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China suspends dialogue agreement with Australia

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China on May 6, 2021 suspended an economic agreement with Australia, worsening an already-troubled relationship fractured by spats over the Covid-19 pandemic and human rights abuses. AFP

China suspends dialogue agreement with Australia

China on May 6 cut off a channel for diplomatic and trade talks with Australia.

The China-Australia Strategic Economic Dialogue was pulled "based on the current attitude" of the Australian government, China's National Development and Reform Commission said in a statement, blaming some officials of a "Cold War mindset" and "ideological discrimination".

Beijing will "indefinitely suspend all activities under the framework" of the agreement, the statement said, without revealing what specific measures prompted the move.

China – Australia's biggest trading partner – has already imposed tariffs or disrupted more than a dozen key industries, including wine, barley and coal, decimating exports.

Australia called the decision "disappointing", with trade minister Dan Tehan saying the dialogue had provided an important forum for the two countries – though he added that no such talks had taken place since 2017.

The Australian dollar sank 0.6 per cent soon after the news before recovering later in the day.

It was not immediately clear if the row would impact on a free-trade agreement between the two that came into effect in 2015.

Canberra has previously described the avenue for talks – designed to boost trade between both sides and introduce large Chinese investors – as one of the "premier bilateral economic meetings with China".

On the same day, China criticised New Zealand over "groundless" allegations about the ill treatment of Uighurs, underlining Wellington's struggle to find a middle ground between its largest trading partner and its traditional Western allies.

The Chinese embassy in Wellington said in a statement that the New Zealand parliament was meddling in matters that concerned China's sovereignty.

"This move grossly interferes in China's internal affairs and runs counter to international law and basic norms governing international relations," it said.

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