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Australia's virus inquiry gathers momentum

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Australia's virus inquiry gathers momentum (Pexels)

Australia has received international backing for an independent coronavirus inquiry as trade tensions with China come under heavy strain.

More than 60 countries including Russia, Indonesia, India, Japan, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and all 27 European Union member states have co-sponsored the motion.

The draft resolution calls for impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation of the international response to the pandemic.

It doesn't mention China, but Australia's push for the inquiry has angered Beijing, which has threatened a huge tariff on barley and blocked some beef imports.

Health Minister Greg Hunt will represent Australia at the virtual World Health Assembly meeting on Monday night.

A vote is expected in the early hours of Tuesday.

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the inquiry was about investigating what the world could learn from the devastating pandemic.

"That's the responsible thing to do when 300,000 souls have lost their lives around the world," he told the ABC on Monday.

Mr Littleproud said his Chinese counterpart had indicated he would not discuss trade issues in the near future.

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham has not received a return call from his opposite number.

Australia isn't ruling out taking China to the World Trade Organisation over the 80 per cent tariff on barley.

Mr Littleproud said he would continue to make the case to China that exporters were not dumping product.

"We will prosecute that case on behalf of Australian exporters," he said.

"If those that we're prosecuting against don't understand it, we'll take it to an umpire for them to understand."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has described the push for an inquiry into the origins of coronavirus as completely unremarkable.

But China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi lashed out at foreign politicians for politicising the pandemic.

Beijing's man in Canberra raised the prospect of consumer boycotts of Australian products because of the push for an inquiry.

Since then, the barley threat has surfaced, while four major Australian abattoirs have been blocked from sending product to China.

© AAP 2020

Tags: coronavirus