- Chinese government imposed a brutal and extraordinary 80 per cent tariff on Australian exports from today
- Diplomatic relations between nations deteriorated as Australia called for probe into the spread of coronavirus
- Britain and 100 other countries also demanded inquiry, leading to fears UK could be dragged into trade war
- Chinese president Xi Jinping said today China acted ‘with openness and transparency’ in tackling outbreak
There are fears Britain could be dragged into a global trade war with China after Beijing slapped an 80 per cent tariff on Australian exports as punishment for demanding an independent coronavirus inquiry – which 100 nations including the UK supported.
On Monday, the World Health Organization bowed to calls from most of its member states to launch an independent probe into how it managed the international response to coronavirus, which has been clouded by finger-pointing between the US and China.
The ‘comprehensive evaluation’ over coronavirus, sought by a coalition of African, European and other countries, is intended to review ‘lessons learned’ from WHO’s coordination of the global response to the virus outbreak.
Donald Trump took the row with China further last night when he threatened to permanently cut off funding for the WHO, which he has accused of bias towards Beijing.
The president has raged at the WHO’s ‘political correctness’ and blames it for facilitating the spread of the virus with a ‘disastrous decision to oppose travel restrictions from China’ in the early weeks of the outbreak.
Trump suspended US funds last month and has now threatened to quit the body altogether if it does not make ‘major substantive improvements within the next 30 days’.
‘The only way forward for the World Health Organization is if it can actually demonstrate independence from China,’ Trump said in a letter to WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The UK has also supported the call for an inquiry, though the one announced by the WHO is expected to stop short of looking into contentious issues such as the origins of the virus.
Last month, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said China faces ‘hard questions’ about the source of the coronavirus pandemic, adding there would have to be a ‘deep dive’ into the facts around the outbreak.
He also said it wouldn’t go back to ‘business as usual’ between the UK and China after the pandemic eases.