While Australia’s relationship with China goes from bad to worse, the Morrison government’s frustration with Donald Trump is profound.

Last week, after Beijing had issued its draft decision to hit Australian barley with an 80 per cent tariff, it agreed to start buying barley and blueberries from the US as part of its obligations under phase one.
Scott Morrison said no when asked if he saw a link between the two actions. Behind the scenes, too, there are doubts about a connection, but views are less forthright.
“Does this decision [to impose tariffs on Australian barley] help China in terms of its commitment to the US? Yes,” said one senior official.
“Would China be taking some delight in the idea that our pain is America’s gain? I’m sure they are.”
On ABC radio on Tuesday, Trade Minister Simon Birmingham was open-minded. “We’ll watch what happens in relation to the China market very, very closely and where and how they source their future barley and grains,” he said.
“Anything within [the US-China deal] that distorts markets outside of accepted trade practices and the general rules of the World Trade Organisation would be a concern and that’s why we’ve been monitoring what happens with barley flows, and certainly would take up any grievances with any party in that regard.”
Kevin Rudd said Scott Morrison should never have taken a unilateral position in calling for the inquiry into the coronavirus when China was already looking for an excuse to honour its US commitments.
Rudd supports a virus inquiry but said the PM should have built a consensus for the inquiry and relied on safety in numbers, given the inevitable Chinese backlash.
Anthony Albanese said farmers are owed answers.
While the China relationship goes from bad to worse, the frustration with Trump is profound.
There is a prevailing view inside government that his hamfisted taking on of China was done with wilful disregard for friends and allies.
The senior official said rather than distort global trade, it would have been better for the US to enlist Europe and nations like Japan, South Korea and Australia to push China to comply with WTO obligations, and to reform the World trade Organisation.
This included forcing China to relinquish its developing-nation status, which entitles it to special treatment on a number of fronts, including trade.
Instead, Trump alienated the Japanese and the Koreans by targeting them with grievances.
“He was too busy picking fights with friends rather than building alliances,” said the official.
Australia was advised to keep its head down. Apart from gently urging Trump to keep in mind that Australia should not become collateral damage in the China fight, the government knew not to push the issue.
It had successfully negotiated exemptions from Trump’s tariffs and steel and aluminium. Push the favour too far and you might get the wrong result.