More than 110 countries have backed Australia’s push for an independent coronavirus inquiry as China imposes a huge tariff on barley imports from Australia.
The African Group’s 54 member states will co-sponsor the motion, joining 62 other countries including Russia, Indonesia, India, Japan, Britain and Canada.
The European Union’s 27 members are all on board, along with Brazil, South Korea, Mexico, Turkey and New Zealand.
The draft resolution calls for an impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation of the international response to the pandemic.
It doesn’t mention China but Australia’s push for the inquiry has angered Beijing, which will impose a huge tariff on barley and blocked some beef imports.
The Chinese Commerce Ministry says it will impose the anti-dumping duties on barley imports from Australia of around 80 per cent from Tuesday, Reuters reports.
The anti-dumping duties will be at 73.6 per cent , while the anti-subsidy rate is 6.9 per cent
China won’t block a scientific investigation, an editorial in the state-run Global Times newspaper says.
But it says America is “messed up” in its response to the virus and is now seeking to shift the blame, dragging along Australia and the EU.
“Do some people in Canberra and other places follow Washington politically and conceal their political intention toward China?” the editorial states.
“It is the US that should feel it failed the international community.”
Health Minister Greg Hunt will represent Australia at the on-line World Health Assembly meeting on Monday night.
A vote on the motion is expected in the early hours of Tuesday.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne says this should result in an examination of the origins of the coronavirus and the pandemic’s impact to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
“I don’t want to speculate about the outcome … but importantly, the encouragement and input of so many parties is in fact, I think, a real signal of the importance of the call for an independent international review,” she said on Monday.
“It’s a win for the international community.”
Trade Minister Simon Birmingham has not received a return call from his Chinese counterpart and the senator’s office characterised two interviews he did on Monday as being on the subject of a “trade war with China”.
Asked whether Australia was in a trade war, Senator Payne said the government worked through each issue individually.
Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said his opposite number had indicated he would not discuss trade issues in the near future.
Australia isn’t ruling out taking China to the World Trade Organisation over the 80 per cent tariff on barley.
Opposition frontbencher Chris Bowen said the impasse was deeply concerning for Australian farmers.
“It’s best not to politicise the relationship with China if it all possible,” he said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has described the push for an inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus as completely unremarkable.
But China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi lashed out at foreign lawmakers for politicising the pandemic.
Beijing’s man in Canberra raised the prospect of consumer boycotts of Australian products because of the push for an inquiry.
Since then, the barley threat has surfaced and four major Australian abattoirs have been blocked from sending their products to China.