The US cannot give Australian companies any guarantees they won’t be hit when a trade deal is finally reached with China.
At the moment, Australian firms are benefiting from the trade tensions between the two great nations, with China seeking other sources for commodities like LNG and beef to avoid new US tariffs.
Australian beef exports to China have risen by about 50 per cent over the past year, while the country has drastically slashed its LNG imports from the US and companies down under hope to fill that gap.
But there are no assurances the Americans would consider the flow-on effects for their allies should they guarantee a level of imports in any deal with China.
“I’m not sure it’s my specific role or even the role of the United States to give those kind of assurances you’re looking for,” acting assistant secretary of state W Patrick Murphy told reporters in Canberra on Friday.
Nevertheless, he doubted much would change America’s strong economic relationship with Australia.
“We also share similar values and that’s awfully critical in a healthy trading relationship,” he said.
“Those key elements, I think, will help this trade and economic relationship ride through uncertainties that might emerge based on other relationships.”
US President Donald Trump was on Thursday lauding a trade deal struck with Japan to open up beef exports to that market.
“First time ever. So, beef is now going to be starting to flow to Japan. And our folks that do beef, they are very much happy… It’s happening fast,” he told reporters in Washington.
Japan is Australia’s largest overseas market for beef, with the US second and China a close third.
Mr Murphy said he understood people’s uncertainty about the “pretty rigorous trade negotiations” but denied there was anything arbitrary in the way the US was acting and the outcomes it would pursue.
“I think it’s safe to say that all parties concerned hope for a good, positive conclusion,” he said
“We’re keen to ensure this is both a free and a fair trading relationship (with China).
“That does not as a matter of policy undermine our trading relationships with other countries.”