Sydney Morning Herald: Dispute with China over virus hurts traders

13 May 2020

The chief executive of the Australia China Business Council, Helen Sawczak, says an inquiry into the coronavirus pandemic is valid, but warned that Australia badly mishandled its push for the investigation with a weird public strategy.

Ms Sawczak said it was only natural that problems in bilateral relationships would occur from time to time, but stressed that when problems emerged they should be resolved in private.

“These matters, they’re not well placed to be played out in the public arena. In the olden days when we had issues with China we would take it up behind closed doors, and we’d call that diplomacy. But at the moment it’s whipped up into a frenzy in the public arena and the people who hurt the most is our traders,” she said.

“Inquiries are pretty standard, after Ebola, after SARS, we’ll have an inquiry to find out how it happened, how it was managed, to make sure it doesn’t happen again. But the fact that Australia went out on Sunday morning TV calling for an inquiry, without any international backing at that stage, was quite a weird strategy,” she said.

Ms Sawczak made the comments in an Internet seminar on Wednesday morning that focussed on the Australia-China relationship. The seminar was presented by the Chinese telecommunications company Huawei.