Australia is filing a formal complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO) about China over tariffs that country has introduced on imports of Australian wines. The Australian government announced this on Saturday, Reuters news agency reported. “The government will continue to vigorously defend the interests of Australian winemakers and use the WTO’s existing system to resolve our differences,” Trade Minister Dan Tehan said in a statement.
Relations between the two countries have deteriorated further in recent months. The reason is the call by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison for an independent investigation into the origin of the corona virus. It also plays a role that Australia has excluded the Chinese technology company Huawei from the construction of a 5G network in the country. China responded by imposing high tariffs on Australian products such as beef, barley, coal, cotton and wine. The Asian country itself speaks of ‘anti-dumping’ measures because these products would be sold below the market price. The levies were formally set in March on five-year Australian wine products at rates ranging from 116.2 to 219.4 percent, reported Bloomberg at the time.
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Import duties have doubled or tripled prices of Australian wines in China, largely shutting down trade for Australian exporters. According to Australia, between December and March 12 million Australian dollars (about 7.6 million euros) worth of wine was shipped to China – compared to 325 million Australian dollars (205 million euros) a year earlier.
Earlier, Australia asked the WTO to look into China’s decision to impose high tariffs on Australian barley imports. The decision to make a formal complaint about the wine taxes follows, according to the Australian government, “extensive consultations” with Australian winemakers. However, the government says that “Australia remains open to direct cooperation with China to solve this problem”. China is by far Australia’s largest trading partner. At least a third of total exports go to China.