Australian farmers are throwing their weight behind the government’s push to take China to the international umpire on global trade following further escalation in the diplomatic spat.
The Chinese Ministry of Commerce has accused Australia of selling wine at artificially low prices to stamp out competition and increase market share – a practice known as dumping.
Beijing has now implemented ‘temporary anti-dumping measures’ with tariffs ranging between 107.1 per cent and 212.1 per cent applying to Australian wine imports.
The wine tariffs add to the growing list of sanctions imposed on Australian produce including barley, sugar, timber and coal – with some accusing China of punishing Australia for its demands for a coronavirus inquiry.
Grain Growers Chairman and fifth-generation farmer Brett Hosking told Daily Mail Australia most farmers are ‘really supportive’ of the matter going to the World Trade Organisation for an urgent review.
Australian plans to take China to the World Trade Organisation over ‘politically motivated’ tariff increases (pictured, President Xi Jinping left and Prime Minister Scott Morrison right)
‘There is broad support because there is also an element of clearing their name too because it has been suggested that growers have traded in a way that is not ethical,’ he said.
‘People from the country people – I guess all Australians – really value our integrity so when someone questions it, then we’d like the umpire to make the call.’
Trade Minister Simon Birmingham on Sunday said the government is now in talks with various sectors to take action on China.
He dismissed claims by Beijing that Australian winemakers have been ‘dumping’ product on the Chinese market, insinuating the issues over trade are politically motivated and not to do with legitimate trade issues.
On Friday, Penfolds producer Treasury Wines went into a trading halt after the stock price plummeted over 11 per cent to $9.23 a share
‘We know that Australia’s wine producers, far from dumping their product in China, actually get their best price per litre in the Chinese market compared with any of their other export markets,’ he told the ABC Insiders program.
‘We are a high priced wine exporter into China and our wine producers do this, an incredibly good job in terms of providing high quality high value wine at an entirely commercial level. And that’s why we will stand with them in fighting these claims of dumping.’
The $6billion Australian wine industry exports about 39 per cent of all its product to China.
The tariffs are all but certain to cripple the lucrative export market.
On Friday, Penfolds producer Treasury Wines went into a trading halt after the stock price plummeted over 11 per cent to $9.23 a share.
The $6billion Australian wine industry exports about 39 per cent of all its product to China (pictured, Penfolds wine)
Trade Minister Birmingham dismissed claims by Beijing that Australian winemakers have been ‘dumping’ product on the Chinese market
Mr Birmingham said following trade tariffs introduced on Australia’s barley industry in May, diplomats chose to engage with China’s domestic processes.
They argued the $1.2billion export was not being unfairly subsidised by the government as Beijing claimed.
But after six months the process has all but failed with Communist Party officials rejecting Australia’s evidence.
‘Now the WTO appeal for barley is the next step,’ Mr Birmingham said.
The price of Australian barley has fallen from about $280 per ton before the tariffs were brought in to about $200 now, increasing the stress of many farming families.
‘Our grain was sold as a high-end malt products to make beer and spirits is China,’ Mr Hosking added.
‘Although the quality of the product hasn’t changed, the next available market is feed markets.
‘So that premium malt quality barley is now being put down the throat of a cow – which I’m sure the cow is enjoying – but they’re probably not appreciating the quality quite as much as we’d like them to.’
‘Now the WTO appeal for barley is the next step,’ Trade Minister Birmingham (pictured) said
The price of Australian barley has fallen from about $280 per ton before the tariffs were brought in to about $200 now, increasing the stress of many farming families
Australian trade negotiators already fronted a WTO meeting last week to complain about how local exports are being singled out and discriminated against by China, The Australian Financial Review reported.
They blasted China’s General Administration of Customs for its lack of transparency over bans on beef exports from five abattoirs.
The frustrated group also decried China for being unwilling to negotiate in a timely and responsive manner.
Hostilities between Australia and China have soared in recent years after a number of diplomatic spats.
China’s ’14 grievances’
1. ‘Incessant wanton interference in China’s Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan affairs’
2. ‘Siding with the US’ anti-China campaign and spreading misinformation’
3. ‘Thinly veiled allegations against China on cyber attacks without any evidence’
4. ‘An unfriendly or antagonistic report on China by media’
5. Providing funding to ‘anti-China think tank for spreading untrue reports’
6. ‘Foreign interference legislation’
7. ‘Foreign investment decisions’
8. ‘Banning Huawei technologies and ZTE from the 5G network’
9. ‘Politicisation and stigmatisation of the normal exchanges and coorperation between China and Australia’
10. Making statements ‘on the South China Sea to the United Nations’
11. ‘Outrageous condemnation of the governing party of China by MPs and racist attacks against Chinese or Asian people’
12. ‘The early drawn search and reckless seizure of Chinese journalists’ homes and properties’
13. Calls for an independent inquiry into Covid-19
14. ‘Legislation to scrutinise agreements with a foreign government’
The banning of Huawei from the nation’s 5G network in 2018 on the grounds of national security concerns infuriated the totalitarian state, but it was Mr Morrison’s call for an independent international inquiry in the origins of the coronavirus back in April which prompted a drastic response from Beijing.
China immediately slapped the 80 per cent tariff on Australian barley, suspended beef imports and told students and tourists not to travel Down Under.
Beijing again responded with fury and outrage this month when Mr Morrison set off to Japan – one of China’s greatest historic rivals – to strengthen trade and military ties.
Days after, Beijing published a list of 14 grievances.
The laundry list included everything from ‘unfair media reports’ to Canberra’s criticism of China over its human rights abuses
As payback China has targeted up to $20billion in key Australian exports.
Tensions have also spiked over allegations of widespread state-sponsored cyber attacks by China, and after ASIO raided the homes of Chinese journalists suspected of political interference.
Hostilities between Australia and China have soared in recent years after a number of diplomatic spats (Penfolds wine is stacked on a shelf in China)
How China’s feud with Australia has escalated
2019: Australian intelligence services conclude that China was responsible for a cyber-attack on Australia’s parliament and three largest political parties in the run-up to a May election.
April 2020: Australian PM Scott Morrison begins canvassing his fellow world leaders for an inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic. Britain and France are initially reluctant but more than 100 countries eventually back an investigation.
April 15: Morrison is one of the few leaders to voice sympathy with Donald Trump’s criticisms of the World Health Organization, which the US president accuses of bias towards China.
April 21: China’s embassy accuses Australian foreign minister Peter Dutton of ‘ignorance and bigotry’ and ‘parroting what those Americans have asserted’ after he called for China to be more transparent about the outbreak.
April 23: Australia’s agriculture minister David Littleproud calls for G20 nations to campaign against the ‘wet markets’ which are common in China and linked to the earliest coronavirus cases.
April 26: Chinese ambassador Cheng Jingye hints at a boycott of Australian wine and beef and says tourists and students might avoid Australia ‘while it’s not so friendly to China’. Canberra dismisses the threat and warns Beijing against ‘economic coercion’.
May 11: China suspends beef imports from four of Australia’s largest meat processors. These account for more than a third of Australia’s $1.1billion beef exports to China.
May 18: The World Health Organization backs a partial investigation into the pandemic, but China says it is a ‘joke’ for Australia to claim credit. The same day, China imposes an 80 per cent tariff on Australian barley. Australia says it may challenge this at the WTO.
May 21: China announces new rules for iron ore imports which could allow Australian imports – usually worth $41billion per year – to be singled out for extra bureaucratic checks.
June 5: Beijing warns tourists against travelling to Australia, alleging racism and violence against the Chinese in connection with Covid-19.
June 9: China’s Ministry of Education warns students to think carefully about studying in Australia, similarly citing alleged racist incidents.
June 19: Australia says it is under cyber-attack from a foreign state which government sources say is believed to be China. The attack has been targeting industry, schools, hospitals and government officials, Morrison says.
July 9: Australia suspends extradition treaty with Hong Kong and offers to extend the visas of 10,000 Hong Kongers who are already in Australia over China’s national security law which effectively bans protest.
August 18: China launches 12-month anti-dumping investigation into wines imported from Australia in a major threat to the $6billion industry.
August 26: Prime Minster Scott Morrison announces he will legislate to stop states and territories signing deals with foreign powers that go against Australia’s foreign policy. Analysts said it is aimed at China.
October 13: Trade Minister Simon Birmingham says he’s investigating reports that Chinese customs officials have informally told state-owned steelmakers and power plants to stop Aussie coal, leaving it in ships off-shore.
November 2: Agriculture Minister David Littleproud reveals China is holding up Aussie lobster imports by checking them for minerals.
November 3: Barley, sugar, red wine, logs, coal, lobster and copper imports from Australia unofficially banned under a directive from the government, according to reports.
November 18: China releases bizarre dossier of 14 grievances with Australia.