The National Farmers’ Federation says it will support the Federal Government if it decides to appeal to the World Trade Organization (WTO) over China’s decision to impose hefty tariffs on barley.
- The Trade Minister says the Government is continuing to raise issues over trade with China directly
- China has imposed tariffs on Australian barley and recently also announced tariffs of up to 200 per cent on wine
- The National Farmers Federation says the Government needs to help exporters by developing new trade markets
In a statement to Parliament, Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said the Government was “considering all dispute settlement options” in order to help exporters who have been crippled by tariffs.
As well as barley, Australian wine has also recently been stung with tariffs of up to 200 per cent as part of a Chinese investigation into wine dumping, accusing producers of selling wine for below the cost of production.
Senator Birmingham again said the government had raised concerns about the investigation and the tariffs on both commodities, that they were inconsistent with the WTO’s rules and the free trade agreement it signed with China, known as ChAFTA.
“The government continues to work closely with our exporters in an effort to retain preferential market access into China and raise issues of apparent discriminatory actions targeted against Australia,” he said.
“Australia has raised these concerns with Chinese officials on multiple occasions in Canberra and Beijing and has asked the Chinese government to engage on these matters at officials’ and ministerial levels.
“The Chinese government has consistently spoken about its commitment to open trade and the multilateral trading system as well as to its free trade agreements, including ChAFTA.
“All WTO members are expected to conduct their trading relationships in a manner consistent with their international obligations.”
National Farmers’ Federation president Fiona Simson has thrown her support behind an Australian appeal to the WTO, over China’s decision to impose hefty tariffs on barley.
“Absolutely, we depend on playing by the rules, we have to support that,” Ms Simson said.
Senator Birmingham has previously said he expected Australia could launch a formal appeal at the WTO, having exhausted China’s domestic appeals process.
If Australia does escalate the dispute, it would be the first time Australia has referred China to the independent umpire over an agricultural trade since signing ChAFTA in 2015, and could be considered a precedent for a similar dispute over tariffs on Australian wine.
Ms Simson said the National Farmers Federation had been speaking with the Government about opening trade to new markets.
“Government can always do more, we always want more markets,” she said.
Senator Birmingham said progress was being made on establishing new trade partnerships, including through the recent Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement — the largest trade deal in the world.
But he also said even with new agreements, China was still Australia’s largest trading partner and the relationship between the two countries was also affected by China’s “growing economic and strategic weight in the global context”.
“We make no secret that this competition is creating new dilemmas for us and the rest of the global community,” Senator Birmingham said.