China-US struggle is damaging Australia, former trade minister Andrew Robb warns
3 July, 2018, 5:16 pm
MELBOURNE, 03 JULY 2018 (ABC ONLINE) – Former Australia trade minister Andrew Robb has warned American efforts to contain China’s rise are “futile” and “counterproductive”.
The long-serving Liberal MP, who accepted a lucrative consultancy with Chinese-owned Company Landbridge just after leaving Parliament in 2016, says Australia should exercise its influence independently of both rival superpowers.
Speaking at the Mineral Council of Australia’s (MCA) annual dinner last night, Robb said both China and India were re-emerging as major players in Asia and would “share” power with the US over the course of this century.
“Unfortunately, the United States appears yet to accept this inevitability, with both sides of the political aisle in Washington endlessly focusing on ‘containment’ of China — a futile and counterproductive approach in my view,” Robb said.
The former minister, who oversaw successful negotiations on the Chinese free trade agreement, warned the biggest threat to Australia’s economic prosperity came from the risk of a botched transition to sharing power with China and India.
Robb warned his MCA audience that mining was the Australian industry most exposed to the region’s changing geopolitical environment.
“It is in the best interest of the mining and energy sector to help Australia more broadly navigate this increasingly tense power struggle,” he said.
“The alternative of leaving two bulls in a paddock to fight it out is no answer.”
He added that power-sharing between the US and China is “the biggest opportunity and potentially the biggest threat” for the Indo-Pacific region and argued history shows both that power-sharing “can be fraught with conflict” but that “conflict is not inevitable”.
“My simple thesis tonight is that an unprecedented and unexpected surge in demand from one country, China, drove the mining boom, and further new demand from China and other countries in our region can sustain such growth for several decades if we play our cards correctly,” Robb said.
The former politician’s comments come as fears grow of an escalating trade war between the Trump administration and Beijing, and as the Turnbull Government tries to placate Chinese concerns about its new laws targeting foreign interference in Australia.
In 2016 Robb drew widespread condemnation after the ABC revealed he had become a “high-level economic consultant” with Landbridge, the Chinese company that now operates Darwin Port.
The following year a joint Four Corners and Fairfax investigation revealed Robb’s consultancy with Landbridge was worth $880,000-a-year.