The World Trade Organization (WTO) has agreed to examine China’s tariffs on imported Australian wine, amid ongoing political and economic tensions.
Australia referred China to the international trade umpire earlier this year, arguing Beijing’s decision to impose tariffs of up to 220 percent had caused “serious harm” to Australia’s wine industry.
The dispute settlement body, which met behind closed doors on Tuesday, agreed to Australia’s second request after its first attempt was blocked by China in September.
It is the third time Australia has sought WTO action over an agricultural commodity in less than a year, and it follows the federal government’s WTO referral over Chinese barley tariffs in December 2020. Trade tensions, already rocky after Australia banned Chinese telecommunication giant Huawei from its 5G wireless network in 2018, worsened after Canberra called for an international inquiry into the origins of coronavirus.
China responded by imposing tariffs on Australian wine and barley and limiting imports of Australian beef, coal and grapes, moves described by the United States as “economic coercion”.
In March, Beijing confirmed the tariffs would apply for five years, putting an end to what had been the wine industry’s most lucrative trade.
China defended its decision, saying Australian winemakers sold wine below the cost of production and it had been subsidised.
Australia’s wine exports to China have fallen since the tariffs were introduced last November.
In the six months to June this year, Australia exported just $13 million worth of wine to China, compared to $490 million over the same period last year.
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