Australia drags China to WTO over economic coercions

In a statement, Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne said, with Canberra dragging Beijing to the World Trade Organisation over the latter imposing anti-dumping duties on wine exports, bilateral negotiations is expected to commence.

Last week, the Australian government filed a complaint with the WTO over Chinese duties that were applied last year which nearly wiped out exports of Australian wine to the Chinese market.

“What lodging the dispute enables us to do is begin dispute consultation settlements, which actually is a bilateral discussion with China about the issues,” said Payne in an interview on the Australian Broadcasting Corp’s (ABC) ‘Insiders’ program. “We’ve seen duties of over 200% applied to Australian wine. We don’t believe that that is consistent with China’s obligations under the WTO. So that part of the process enables us to have that direct conversation.”

The Australian government has noted that Beijing has consistently ignored calls to ease trade tensions.

This is the second time in six months that Australia has appealed to the WTO. In December 2020, Australia had launched a formal appeal seeking a review of China’s decision to impose hefty tariffs on imports of Australian barley.

With China actively blocking calls for an international inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus-induced COVID-19 pandemic which has dragged down the global economy, bilateral relations with China has become rocky. Australia has also banned Huawei, which has been accused by global intelligence agencies of working closely with Chinese intelligence, from its 5G broadband network in 2018.

China has reacted strongly to Canberra’s internal domestic decisions by imposing tariffs on Australian commodities, including barley and wine; Beijing has also limited imports of Australian beef, grapes, and coal in moves described by the United States as “economic coercion”.

When asked to respond on the fresh international push to find answers to the origin of COVID-19, Payne said it was important to maintain the momentum.

“We are very determined to work with our partners to ensure that (…) investigation is able to access its material that it needs, including within China,” said Payne.

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