05.08.20

Gardner Sends Bipartisan, Bicameral Letter in Support of Australia

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) joined U.S. Senators Jim Risch (R-ID) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ), chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, along with U.S. Representatives Mike Gallagher (R-WI) and Joe Courtney (D-CT), co-chairs of the Friends of AustraliaCaucus, in sending a bipartisan, bicameral letter to express unwavering support for Australia amidst recent comments made by Chinese Ambassador Cheng Jingye. The comments insinuated Australia may face economic retaliation after calling for an independent investigation into the origins of the Coronavirus, including boycotts of Australian wine and beef.

“This incident is part of a broader and concerning pattern from the Chinese government,” wrote the lawmakers. “As we continue to confront this deadly disease and its consequences, we will be faced with many tough decisions, including those that may arise from the Chinese government’s continued lack of cooperation and transparency. One decision that is not difficult is to always stand with our Australian mates. No matter the external pressure or coercion, we will always have Australia’s back, just as Australia has always had ours.”

The letter, signed by 27 members of the Senate and House, also condemned Ambassador Cheng’s comments and expressed support for Australia’s decision to pursue the investigation.

The full letter is available here and below:

Ambassador Sinodinos,

As Australia, along with the rest of the world, deals with the terrible human and economic consequences of COVID-19, we write to reaffirm our strong support for the U.S.-Australiaalliance. For more than a century, our nations have stood side by side during moments of great peril. The current crisis is no different. Although the challenges we face are new, what has not changed is our shared commitment to our values and to our friends.

Given the tremendous toll COVID-19 has taken on the world, it is only natural that Australia – like all nations concerned with upholding best practices for global public health – would want an objective, scientific, evidence-based, and rigorous investigation into the origins of the virus. As Prime Minister Scott Morrison stated in calling for an independent review, “We’d like the world to be safer when it comes to viruses...I would hope that any other nation, be it China or anyone else, would share that objective.” Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong further emphasized that Australia must “press what is right, what we believe is right, for us and for the international community, and making sure that humanity understands how this virus started is the right thing to do." We could not agree more.

Unfortunately, and not for the first time, Chinese government officials responded to these calls with deeply disturbing and thinly-disguised threats of retaliation. In an interview with the Australian Financial Review, Chinese Ambassador Cheng Jingye called such an inquiry “dangerous” and threatened economic retaliation along a number of fronts, including boycotts of Australian wine and beef. We unequivocally oppose this behavior and strongly support Foreign Minister Marise Payne’s rejection of “any suggestion that economic coercion is an appropriate response to a call for such an assessment.”

This incident is part of a broader and concerning pattern from the Chinese government. As we continue to confront this deadly disease and its consequences, we will be faced with many tough decisions, including those that may arise from the Chinese government’s continued lack of cooperation and transparency. One decision that is not difficult is to always stand with our Australian mates. No matter the external pressure or coercion, we will always have Australia’s back, just as Australia has always had ours.

Thank you for your hard work on behalf of the U.S.-Australia alliance. We look forward to continuing to work with you in support of our common interests and values.

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Cory Gardner is a member of the U.S. Senate serving Colorado. He sits on the Energy & Natural Resources Committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, the Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee, and is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy.