The covert but damaging diplomatic trade war between Australia and China is producing a mounting number of casualties among Australian companies that rely on exports to China.
It has created a new category of Australian high-risk listed companies – all of which were dumped on Tuesday as a second wave of the trade war found a new front.
So widespread is the affected list – from coal to cotton and from wine to education – it appears no product is safe, other than Australia’s most important and valuable export – iron ore.
There is such arbitrariness to those affected that victims of the insidious unofficial trade war will find it difficult to respond.
The often informal nature of China’s communication to those importing Australian goods only makes what is clearly a random trade curtailment more sinister.
Unexplained random checks on products that allegedly find or are looking for weeds in barley, questionable metallic levels in lobsters, or bugs in timber are dubious enough. Then there are the Chinese allegations of Australian producers dumping wine, tariff threats on cotton and talk of curbs on Australian copper and coal. And this is not an exhaustive list.
Those Australian exporters, other than iron ore producers, are getting information informally often via Chinese product distributors or through Chinese media outlets alerting them.
Covert as the Chinese government has been at times, the reality is that the message it has been sending Australia for most of the year has been getting louder.
The bans on copper and sugar have not been officially announced but media reports suggest it will happen this week.
For Chinese importers the potential banning of Australian suppliers will be enough for many to look to other countries for replacements.
The unofficial means used by the Chinese government allows it to deny the trade moves are politically motivated.
For its part the Australian government has been attempting to avoid labelling it as a major diplomatic falling out. It leaves many Australian exporters engaging in an exercise of shadow boxing.
The cost of the exports to China has been put as high as $6 billion annually. The potential damage to individual companies will depend on how successful they are at finding alternative international markets.
Thus it was Australian listed companies that rely heavily on selling into the China market whose shares suffered on Tuesday.
Copper exposed Sandfire Resources led the charge down, followed by Treasury Estates Wine, United Malt Group and A2 Milk, Oz Minerals, Iluka Resources, IDP Education. These were the islands of red among the sea of green on the ASX lists.
Sandfire, which exported 93 per cent of its product to China in 2020, told the ASX on Tuesday it was not aware of the validity of the reports but said it was confident it could find new customers.
So much for Australian investors’ pre-US election jitters. Before our opening, futures markets were primed for a lacklustre performance – one without much direction. The reality was, in contrast, euphoric as investors were hyped up by the prospect of the Reserve Bank’s 2.30 pm announcement it would slash interest rates and move into unchartered quantitative easing.
When confirmation was received the market took another leg up.
The markets appeared unconcerned about the drip-feed of US polls during the day that suggested Joe Biden’s lead over Trump had narrowed.
Source: Thanks smh.com