Australian secretary of state Marise Payne has cautioned China against attempts at “economic coercion” as Australia pushes for an investigation into the coronavirus pandemic that China opposes.

Chinese ambassador to Australia, Cheng Jingye, said in a very newspaper interview on Monday the “Chinese public” could avoid Australian products and universities.

Australia last week mixed up all members of the planet Health Organisation (WHO) to support an independent review into the origins and spread of the coronavirus and is lobbying world leaders. China’s foreign ministry has attacked the proposal.

“Maybe the normal people will say ‘Why should we drink Australian wine? Eat Australian beef?’,” Cheng said within the interview published on the front page of The Australian Financial Review.

Cheng said it absolutely was possible that tourists may have “second thoughts” about visiting Australia.

“The parents of the scholars would also think […] whether this can be the simplest place to send their kids,” he added.

After energy exports, education and tourism are Australia’s biggest export industries, with China the most important market.

Payne said in a very statement on Monday that Australia had made a “principled call” for an independent review of the Covid-19 outbreak which started within the Chinese city of Wuhan.

“We reject any suggestion that economic coercion is an appropriate response to concern such an assessment when what we’d like is global cooperation,” Payne said.

China is the largest export marketplace for Australian wine and beef. During strained diplomatic relations with China in 2018, Australian wine faced import delays in China and a few Australian beef exports were also previously suspended for a period.

The Chinese embassy in Australia has previously warned Chinese students about what it said were safety risks in travelling to Australia.

Payne said an “honest assessment” of the pandemic would seek to strengthen the WHO’s role.