Germany hopes to find an ally in Australia for its tougher approach to China. To that end, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock delivered a speech in Sydney, via video link. “It hopes to strengthen its negotiating position with China,” says reporter Dirk Marseille.
It was a visit that had been in the making for a very long time and that many observers were looking forward to. Everything seemed to go wrong until the last moment. The government’s Birbuck plane suffered technical problems, which prevented it from continuing its flight to Australia from Abu Dhabi. Then she returned home on a scheduled flight. And the speech had to be done digitally.
Nevertheless, Berbock’s message was clear. Germany has been taking an increasingly hardline economic stance towards China of late, and Green Foreign Minister hopes Australia will join them. And German correspondent Dirk Marseille says: “She proposes to work together so that they have a stronger position at the negotiating table.”
The export ban goes further
Berbock cited, among other things, Australian lithium exports to China. “Now almost all Australian lithium goes there,” Marseille said. “The minister is wondering if they can withhold some of that to strengthen that negotiating position.” She commended Australia’s previous stance when China applied pressure.
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It is not necessary to hit the export ban. Chancellor Olaf Schultz had earlier indicated this. As head of the German government, he immediately indicated the limits. But the tone has been set, according to Marseille. “You see Germany’s aggressive policy towards China very often. By doing this, Berlin is looking for allies.
Discord in Berlin
And because the speech had to be done digitally, according to the reporter, it is not yet clear how Australia will react to it. Marseille is curious: “Australia, of course, is in the region. And it is easier for Europe to make such statements at a distance.
Read also | “Europe does not radiate unity towards China”
And in Germany itself, there is now much speculation about whether the entire cabinet is on the same page. The Greens have always said they want to give more support to China. Now that Berbock is Secretary of State, they have. But the position of the Social Democrats, Schulz’s party, is somewhat less clear. “Normally, after such a speech there is a quick ovation. Now it remains to be seen what the response will be.
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