Australia won't 'play games' amid heightened fears of a global trade war, minister says

  • Global markets have been reeling since the U.S. and China levelled billions of dollars of punitive tariffs against each other last week.
  • "Australia is a pragmatic player and what I mean by that is we adopt a position of principle in a range of different areas and we stay hard and firm to those principles," Trade Minister Steven Ciobo told CNBC on Monday.
  • Australia is thought to be especially vulnerable position to an ongoing trade dispute between the world's two largest economies — in large part because its biggest trading partner is Beijing.

Australia will not attempt to deceive any of its trading partners in order to gain an advantage when negotiating future trade commitments, Trade Minister Steven Ciobo told CNBC Monday.

Global markets have been reeling since the U.S. and China leveled billions of dollars of punitive tariffs against each other last week. The Australian ASX200 was off 0.5 percent on Monday, with investors continuing to fret over the looming prospect of a tit-for-tat trade war.

"Australia is a pragmatic player and what I mean by that is we adopt a position of principle in a range of different areas and we stay hard and firm to those principles," Ciobo said.

"We're always up front and we don't play games about it and I think that makes a big difference," he added.

'No-one wins from a trade war'

President Donald Trump signed a memorandum on Friday that could see charges implemented on up to $60 billion of imports from China, though the proposed measures have a 30-day consultation period before they take effect.

The tariffs follow additional duties on steel and aluminum imports on a number of countries worldwide, including China, with the world's second-largest economy hitting back with its own plans to impose charges on up to $3 billion of U.S. imports.

Australia is thought to be especially vulnerable position to an ongoing trade dispute between the world's two largest economies — in large part because its biggest trading partner is Beijing. Ciobo said that while Australia was not unique in terms of its exposure to China, it does currently have $175 billion worth of two-way trade deals with the Asian giant.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of Australia in the East Room of the White House, on Friday, February 23, 2018.
Cheriss May | NurPhoto | Getty Images

Speaking to reporters in Sydney shortly after Trump signed the memorandum, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said: "No-one wins from a trade war."

"We look forward to the U.S. and China being able to negotiate a satisfactory arrangement that suits both sides," he added.