BHP urges Australia to maintain trade with China amid tensions

Port Hedland, Western Australia. Image: BHP

BHP CEO Mike Henry has urged the Australian government to maintain its trade relationships amid tensions with China.

While Beijing has made no official comment on banning Australian coal imports, along with commodities such as copper ores, lobsters and barley, China has reacted to Canberra’s call for an international probe of the origins and early response to the coronavirus pandemic.

BHP’s chief executive said that tension in international relations is antithetical to the prosperity of Australia, and the world.

“It is a trend that is in all of our interests to work to turn around,” Henry said in a media statement.

“Australia is positioned to demonstrate to others the importance of investing in relationships and the power of trade,” Henry said. “The Australian government’s leadership together with China and other nations to finalise the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is such an example.”

The RCEP was signed by ASEAN nations, including Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan and South Korea, and serves as a commitment to closer trade and open markets.

Henry said the principles of the Bretton Woods agreement – free markets, open trade and economic development – must be reinvigorated and renewed for the challenges the world faces today.

“Other nations may aspire to succeed in self-sufficiency and autonomy. Australia simply isn’t built to succeed under this model. Our strength lies not in shutting ourselves in, but in being able to access the rest of the world – to export our resources, our services and our know-how,” he said.

“The larger Asian economies should be afforded a greater seat at the table and in shaping the rules of the game. The fact that RCEP nations comprise almost 30 per cent of global GDP shows how important it is that this be the case.”