As tension grows over Beijing’s massive tariffs on Australian wine, the Federal Government is continuing with plans to take China to the World Trade Organization (WTO) over barley exports.
- The Trade Minister said his Government “sought to engage in good faith” with China over barley tariffs
- He said the next step would be a WTO appeal
- Recent trade disputes have also hit the wine, timber, beef and lobster industries
In May, China began threatening to slap the tariffs on the barley industry, as a result of “an ongoing anti-dumping and countervailing duties investigation”.
Trade Minister Simon Birmingham has detailed appeals the Government has made through China’s domestic processes to overturn the decision and limit the impact on the $1.5 billion barley trade with China.
“We sought to engage in good faith,” Senator Birmingham told the Insiders program this morning.
“We are disappointed that all the evidence, as compelling as we are confident it is, was rejected by the Chinese authorities and that appeal was unsuccessful.”
Senator Birmingham said the WTO appeal was the next step.
“I expect that will be the outcome,” he said.
The industry itself is split over whether the escalation of the trade conflict is the right course of action.
“There are different opinions, to be quite frank there,” Senator Birmingham said.
“But on the whole Australia stands by the rules-based system for international trade and if you stand by the rules-based system, you should also use that rules-based system, which includes calling out where you think the rules have been broken and calling in the international umpire to help resolve those disputes.”
The Federal Opposition has backed the Government’s preparedness to take China to the WTO.
But Shadow Trade Minister Jason Clare has added that Labor’s endorsement of the appeal should not be seen as the Government getting “off the hook” over the failed negotiations.
“The Prime Minister says there needs to be frank discussions between Australia and China, well I want to know what action the Prime Minister has taken to have those frank discussions,” Mr Clare said.
“It really shouldn’t have come to this. It shouldn’t be that hard.
“This should be able to be sorted out on the phone or face to face.”
Mr Clare has attacked Scott Morrison’s diplomacy with China, arguing that former prime ministers would have been able to keep lines of communication between Australia and China open.
“That’s what Bob Hawke would’ve done. That’s what John Howard would’ve done and that’s what Scott Morrison should do,” Mr Clare said.
Winemakers among industries hit by trade disputes
Recent trade disputes have also hit the wine, timber, beef and lobster industries.
Winemakers are now facing tariffs of up to 212 per cent on their products.
The Chinese Government announced the measures would take effect from Saturday, striking a blow to the $1.2 billion a year industry.
China has accused Australian producers of selling wine for less than the cost of production, harming Chinese winemakers.
The investigation is not due to finish until next year, but China’s Commerce Ministry announced that from November 28, Chinese importers of Australian wine would need to pay temporary “anti-dumping security deposits”.
The deposits, which effectively work like tariffs, will range from between 107 per cent to more than 200 per cent.
Mr Birmingham clarified that while a complaint with the WTO on barley duties could be expected soon, the same high level appeals over wine were not imminent as China’s wine dumping investigation was still in the “early stages”.
“We still have parts of that Chinese process that we have to work through before we get to the point of a WTO dispute [on wine],” Mr Birmingham said.
As uncertainty hangs over industries hit by China trade tariffs, Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has told Sky News the Federal Government has no regrets over Australia being among the first countries to call for an investigation into the origins of COVID-19.
The calls angered the Chinese Government and have widely been viewed as one of the motivations for Beijing to step up its aggressive foreign policies.
But Mr Littleproud stood by the request for a probe, insisting: “There wasn’t any malice in our request to look at this. It was a sensible request.”
“I would’ve thought that after a pandemic where so many lives have been touched that that is a responsible thing governments would do … and the fact that Australia led, I think we should be proud of that,” he said.