© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Bottles of Australian wine are seen in a shop selling imported wine in Beijing, China, Nov. 27, 2020. REUTERS / Florence Lo
From Lidia Kelly
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – The Australian government announced on Saturday that it is filing a formal complaint with the World Trade Organization about China’s imposition of anti-dumping duties on Australian wine exports, which further escalates trade disputes with Beijing.
“The government will continue to vigorously defend the interests of Australian winemakers using the WTO’s established system to resolve our differences,” said Dan Tehan, Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, in a joint press release with Agriculture Minister David Littleproud.
Relations with China, already rocky after Australia banned Huawei from its burgeoning 5G broadband network in 2018, have deteriorated since Canberra called for an international investigation into the origins of the coronavirus, first reported in central China last year.
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, described by the United States as “economic constraints”.
Last year Australia made a formal appeal to the WTO to request a review of China’s decision to impose high tariffs on Australian barley imports.
Wine tariffs doubled or tripled the price and made the Chinese market unprofitable for exporters, the Australian government had previously said.
Australian winemakers shipped just A $ 12 million ($ 9 million) in wine to China in the four months from December to March, up from A $ 325 million a year earlier, industry figures show that the high new tariffs are almost their largest export market have wiped out.
In early June, Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged the WTO to address the stalemate between the two countries and days later won the support of the Group of Seven for a tougher stance on China’s increasing influence in world trade.
On Saturday, the government said Canberra was ready to work with Beijing despite the complaint.
“Australia remains open to working directly with China to solve this problem,” said Tehan and Littleproud in their press release.
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