Australia should expect more China trade tensions: Verisk Maplecroft

CHINA'S desire to diversify its supply of natural resources coupled with a frosty relationship with The West means Australia should brace itself for a further reduction in trade with the Asian nation, according to UK-based risk consultancy firm Verisk Maplecroft.
Australia should expect more China trade tensions: Verisk Maplecroft Australia should expect more China trade tensions: Verisk Maplecroft Australia should expect more China trade tensions: Verisk Maplecroft Australia should expect more China trade tensions: Verisk Maplecroft Australia should expect more China trade tensions: Verisk Maplecroft

Image: iStock/Fokusiert

Tom Hoskyns

"Given their deteriorating bilateral relations and China's imports restriction on Australian coal in recent years, we believe Beijing has identified its dependence on Australian resources as one of the areas most in need of diversification," Verisk said in a report last week.

With geopolitical tensions running high, Verisk said China was speeding up its efforts to reduce resource reliance on "unfriendly suppliers".

"Banning imports of coal from Australia was a prime example but more are likely to follow, with significant impacts on the trade in global commodities and the geopolitical landscape likely.

"Companies and investors are in the direct sights of Beijing's diplomatic moves and will need to prepare accordingly," said Verisk.

By diversifying supply of commodities such as iron ore and metallurgical coal - for which China relies heavily on Australia at present - Beijing will be in a better position "to weaponise trade with geopolitical rivals, while at the same time increasing the economic dependence of new and existing partners".

Verisk noted China has shown a strong preference for securing supplies from stable, autocratic regimes with limited ties to The West.

"Autocracy is a governance system it is comfortable operating with and can influence," said Verisk.

On the iron ore front, Brazil and Guinea are key to China's bid to reduce reliance on Australia.

"Despite a tougher line on Beijing under President Bolsonaro, Brazil remains a priority in China's diversification strategy, while Guinea is politically well disposed to Beijing amid democratic backslide," said Verisk.

Guinea's giant Simandou deposit has been dubbed the "Pilbara killer" - such is its enormous potential - with the China-backed consortium SMB aiming to bring blocks one and two online by 2025.