Australia could join forces with the US, Japan and India to create alliance ...

Australia could join a proposed economic alliance dubbed 'The Quad' with the US, Japan and India to reduce reliance on trade with China as tensions between Canberra and Beijing reach new heights.

US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun has proposed the four-country grouping as a way of filling a trade power vacuum in the Indo-Pacific region.

He added Washington could eventually invite South Korea, Vietnam and New Zealand to join the alliance.

If Australia were to join the trade group it could lead to further souring in diplomatic relations with China, which has worsened since Scott Morrison's proposal for an independent inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic. 

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Australia could join a trade organisation called 'The Quad' with the US, Japan and India following a proposal by the US government

Australia could join a trade organisation called 'The Quad' with the US, Japan and India following a proposal by the US government

Amid a continuing war of words over Mr Morrison's strengthening of Australia's relationship with the US, the communist country has imposed harsh tariffs on Australian farmers - including an 80 per cent tax on barley.

Mr Biegun specifically named China as he laid out plans for 'The Quad' in a speech on August 31.

He said the group could act as a bulwark against 'a potential challenge from China' and resemble the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

'The Indo-Pacific region is actually lacking in strong multilateral structures,' Mr Biegun said.

'They don‘t have anything of the fortitude of Nato or the European Union.

'The strongest institutions in Asia oftentimes are not inclusive enough and so … there is certainly an invitation there at some point to formalise a structure like this.'

US President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his wife Jenny Morrison. The US and Australia could form half of an organisation which would look to emulate the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation

US President Donald and first lady Melania with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his wife Jenny Morrison. The US and Australia could form half of an organisation which would look to emulate the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation

China is Australia's largest trade partner in terms of both imports and exports. 

Figures released in August showed China's share of Australian exports had reached 48.8 per cent - an all-time high - at a cost of $14.6billion.

On Sunday, ­Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade secretary Frances Adamson said it was now more important than ever to stand up to the Asian powerhouse.

'Australia should, Australia must, Australia is, standing up for its interests because if we don't we are on a very slippery slope,' she told The Australian.

Ms Adamson said confronting China amid the coronavirus crisis had prompted Australia's most

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