Australia will take China to the World Trade Organization (WTO) to challenge tariffs placed on the country’s barley exports earlier this year, trade minister Simon Birmingham announced on Wednesday.
“This is the logical and appropriate next step for Australia to take,” Birmingham told reporters in Canberra.
In May, China announced it was imposing anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties totalling 80.5 per cent on Australian barley imports – a move that threatened around 2.5 billion dollars (1.9 billion US dollars) of trade.
Chinese authorities said the decision followed an investigation into Australian grain that found the product has been imported against trade rules.
Birmingham said the dispute would be taken up with the WTO as early as Wednesday night.”We remain disappointed that China has not engaged with Australia to address these concerns and now believe that calling in the independent umpire is the most appropriate course of action to resolve this dispute,” he said.
He added that although the WTO resolution processes “are not perfect, and they take longer than would be ideal,” it was “the right avenue for Australia to take at this point in time.”
Relations between the two countries have become increasingly strained over the past two years, after Canberra banned Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei from setting up a 5G network in Australia.
Beijing was also angered when the Australian government demanded an independent investigation into the origin of the new coronavirus, which spread worldwide from the Chinese metropolis of Wuhan.
China has placed a string of trade tariffs and customs delays on several Australian exports in recent months – including wine, beef and coal.
China is Australia’s largest trading partner. In 2018-2019, China bought around 26 per cent of exports, valued at 235 billion Australian dollars.
“Australia has always supported a rules based trading system, we will always treat our trading partners fairly but we will also stand up for the rights and interests of Australian exporters,” agriculture minister David Littleproud said in a statement Wednesday.
“We have previously taken action against Canada with respect to the treatment of our wine and achieved a positive outcome and we are currently involved in action against India on sugar. I am confident that we will be able to deliver a good outcome for our grains industry.”