Thursday, December 2, 2021

WTO wades in on Australia-China wine spat

Australia had gradually risen to the rank of the number one supplier of wine to China, but the introduction of these tariffs has virtually wiped out Australian wine sales in China, which are worth around US$840 million.

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Australia on Tuesday secured the establishment of a dispute panel at the World Trade Organization (WTO) to probe China’s imposition of anti-dumping and countervailing duties on imported Australian wine.

Canberra’s first request to have the case examined was blocked by Beijing in September. According to WTO rules, second requests are automatically granted.

Australia wants to lift the customs barriers which have almost closed the most important export market for its wines.

“Australia noted that while it remains ready to engage in bilateral discussion with China, Australia is disappointed that it is not seeing any concrete steps by China to respond to its concerns,” the WTO said.

“As a result, Australia is again requesting the establishment of a panel to examine the matter.

“China said it regrets that Australia has decided to submit a second request for a panel. China said it will vigorously defend its legitimate measures in the proceedings and is confident they are consistent with relevant WTO rules.”

The complaint specifically targets bottled wine of a capacity not exceeding two litres imported from Australia, according to the WTO.

Australia had gradually risen to the rank of the number one supplier of wine to China, but the introduction of these tariffs has virtually wiped out Australian wine sales in China, which are worth around US$840 million, according to official figures.

It can take several years for the WTO to render its decisions.

Brazil, Britain, Canada, the European Union, India, Japan, Russia Turkey were among those reserving their third party rights to take part in the proceedings, the Geneva-based global trade body said.

Australia has already lodged a complaint against China with the WTO over tariffs on its barley exports and is challenging sanctions against a host of other products.

Canberra considers these sanctions to be a form of economic coercion.

Many in Australia believe it is retaliation against Canberra’s refusal to permit Chinese investment in strategic sectors – and against Australia’s calls for an investigation into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic, which began in China at the end of 2019.

China, for its part, has also filed a complaint with the WTO against Australian tariffs on certain products, including train wheels, wind turbines, and stainless steel sinks.

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