CANBERRA, Australia (AP) – Australian special envoy and former Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said that a free trade agreement between his country and India would signal “the tilt of the democratic world vis-à-vis China.”
Abbott traveled to New Delhi last week as Australia’s special trade envoy to India as the Australian government prioritizes reaching a bilateral trade deal.
In an opinion piece likely to anger Beijing after it was published in the Australian newspaper on Monday, Abbott said “the answer to almost all questions about China is India.”
“With the world’s other emerging superpower becoming more and more belligerent almost day by day, it is in everyone’s interest that India take its rightful place among the nations as quickly as possible,” wrote Abbott.
“Because trade deals are as much about politics as they are economics, a speedy agreement between India and Australia would be an important sign of the democratic world moving away from China, as well as boosting long-term prosperity. of our two countries, ”Abbott added. .
Abbott was prime minister when China and Australia finalized a bilateral free trade agreement that came into effect in 2015. He also hosted a state visit from Chinese President Xi Jinping a year earlier.
Relations have since deteriorated over issues such as Australia’s ban by Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei on major communications infrastructure projects, the ban on covert foreign interference in Australian politics and the call for an independent investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Abbott accused Beijing of “capricious boycotts” of Australian exports, including coal, barley, wine and seafood, demonstrating China’s use of trade as a “strategic weapon”.
“The fundamental problem is that China’s intimidating power is a consequence of the free world’s decision to invite a communist dictatorship into global trade networks,” Abbott said.
“China has exploited the goodwill and wishful thinking of the West to steal our technology and undermine our industries; and, in the process, to become a much more powerful competitor than the former Soviet Union ever was, as it is now a top-notch economy that is rapidly developing an army to match; and indulge in a fight for Taiwan, a pluralistic democracy of 25 million people which is living proof that there is no totalitarian gene in Chinese DNA, ”Abbott added.
The Chinese Embassy in Australia did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.
Negotiations between India and Australia on a comprehensive economic cooperation agreement began in 2011, but were suspended in 2015.
India is particularly concerned about the liberalization of trade in Australian agricultural exports. New Delhi’s demands for less restrictive visas for Indian workers are a major sticking point for Australia.
Current Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi improved bilateral ties last year with a series of deals that strengthened defense ties and committed the two countries to expanding trade.
Abbott visited India last week to “propel our economic relationship to its full potential, for the mutual benefit of the Indian and Australian people,” Australian High Commissioner to India Barry O’Farrell said in a statement.
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