10 June 2021 –
- Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison reiterates intentions to stand up for barley and wine producers
- But any road through the World Trade Organization (WTO) could be riddled with difficulties
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his government will ask the World Trade Organization (WTO) to resolve its wine-tariff trade dispute with China.
“Barley producers in Australia, winegrowers in Australia, have been targeted with trade sanctions that we believe are completely unconscionable,” Morrison said in a radio interview on Thursday. “We are seeking to take those up to the World Trade Organization and see them resolved there.”
Australia has previously said it was considering taking the wine-tariff dispute with China to the WTO, and has already taken action at the global trade body over Beijing’s barley tariffs.
There was no immediate response to an email to Morrison’s media team and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade seeking more information on the WTO action over wine.
Ties between Canberra and Beijing, which started to become strained in 2018, nosedived last year when Morrison’s government called for independent investigators to probe the origin of the pandemic and also repeatedly criticised Chinese actions in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.
That has spilled into trade reprisals – the prime minister is heading this week to the Group of Seven meeting in Britain, where he has said he will be seeking support from other global leaders to counter what he has called “economic coercion”.
In March, China imposed tariffs of more than 200 per cent on Australian wine for five years, formalising curbs that have been in place for months amid an increasingly fraught relationship with Canberra.
The top commodities buyer said that Australian wine had been subsidised and sold under market value – a view that the Australian government has rejected.
China’s reprisals at Australia have hit a range of other commodities, including coal, beef, barley and lobster. China was the top buyer of Australian wine before Beijing imposed tariffs, having purchased close to A$1 billion (US$773 million) worth of wine in 2019, or about 40 per cent of all wine exports.
Australia announced in December that it was taking China to the WTO over barley, after Beijing imposed duties of more than 80 per cent on the grain in May.
Chinese officials claimed that growers were being subsidised and that Australia had been dumping the product, a case that Australia strongly rejects. Still, the dispute process could take up to three years, according to Agriculture Minister David Littleproud.