Canberra goes to WTO over China wine duties

Australia has already taken Beijing to the WTO over its tariffs on Australian barley. File

Australian wine exports to China plummeted 96 percent in the first quarter of the year after Beijing raised import tariffs by 218 percent last November.

The government announced on Saturday (June 19) that Australia had officially lodged a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO) over Beijing's tariffs on Australian wines.

"The government will continue to vigorously defend the interests of Australian wine makers using the established system in the WTO to resolve our differences", Dan Tehan, minister for trade, tourism and investment, said in a press release.

Australia says it remains open to engaging directly with China to resolve the issue.

"China, Australia's largest trading partner, responded by imposing tariffs on Australian raw materials, including wine and barley and limited imports of Australian beef, coal and grapes, moves described by the United States as "coercion". economic ".

China claims Australian winemakers were dumping huge quantities of cheap product on their market subsidised by the government - a practice known as "dumping" used to increase market share.

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Australia has already complained to the WTO over China's blocking of barley, one of several commodities that have become entangled in the growing rift between the countries.

The two countries are important trading partners but diplomatic relations between them have worsened since Australia called for an worldwide inquiry into the origins of Covid-19.

The crackdown virtually closed what had been Australia's biggest overseas wine market, with sales falling from Aus$1.1 billion (US$ 840 million) to just Aus$20 million, according to official figures.

Australia is now progressing a WTO action Beijing's decision to slap 80 percent tariffs on barley exports, the action has been joined by Canada, Russia, and more recently New Zealand.

"We will use every other mechanism to try and resolve this dispute and other disputes that we have with the Chinese government", he said.

The G7 summit ended on June 12, announcing the US-led plan to counter China's trillion-dollar "Belt and Road" initiative, which is a sign of its efforts to expand its global economic influence.

Morrison attended the summit as part of a G7-plus formula that also attracted leaders from South Korea, South Africa and India, and made it clear he would push other nations into joint action. against China's aggressive trade policies.

"The most practical way to address economic coercion is the restoration of the global trading body's binding dispute-settlement system", he said in a speech just ahead of the summit.

"If the coercive behavior has no consequences, then there is very little motivation to restrain", he said.

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