Australia asks China to explain ‘economic coercion’ threat in coronavirus row

Published: April 29, 2020  Updated: April 29, 2020 at 8:25 am EST

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia has asked the Chinese ambassador to explain his “threats of economic coercion” in response to Canberra’s push for an international inquiry into the source and spread of the coronavirus.

Australia’s call for a probe into the pandemic, which originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December, has angered China, its largest trading partner, following a couple of years of diplomatic tension.

Cheng Jingye, Beijing’s ambassador to Australia, told a newspaper on Monday that Chinese consumers could boycott Australian beef, wine, tourism and universities in response.

Australian Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said Australia was a “crucial supplier” to China and that Australia’s resources and energy helped power much of China’s manufacturing growth and construction.

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