Sydney, Australia, Dec 16 (efe-epa).- Australia will appeal to the World Trade Organization (WTO) to settle a dispute over China’s decision to impose stiff tariffs on its barley at the beginning of the year amid a climate of growing trade tensions between Beijing and Canberra.
“This is the logical and appropriate next step for Australia to take,” Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said at a press conference in Canberra, where he announced this move against China’s imposition of over 80 percent tariffs on Australian barley.
China claims that Australian barley is subsidized and sold to the Asian giant below production cost.
This is Australia’s first appeal to the WTO against China over an agricultural raw material, although it has already taken Canada and India to the international body over issues with wine and sugar, respectively.
Birmingham, who said that the mediation process could take years to resolve, added that the Australia government was “highly confident that based on the evidence, data and analysis that we have put together already, Australia has an incredibly strong case to mount.”
Last week, Canberra accused Beijing of violating trade agreements by imposing tariffs on Australian products such as wine, barley and beef amid diplomatic disputes.
Beijing’s response was that 95 percent of Australian products have zero tariffs.
China and Australia signed a free trade agreement in 2015. But Beijing this year began raising tariffs on some Australian exports after bilateral diplomatic ties deteriorated.
The bilateral tensions worsened when Australia launched an investigation into the origin of Covid-19, believed to be in China, which angered Beijing.
Two years ago, Australia vetoed Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE from concessions on their fifth-generation (5G) telecoms network for security reasons.
Australian authorities have approved laws in recent months to limit foreign economic and diplomatic influence in the country without directly citing China.
In the past, Beijing has criticized the interference of countries such as Australia in its policies in Xinjiang, where the persecuted Muslim Uighur minority lives, in Hong Kong and the disputed waters of the South China Sea.
China is Australia’s major trading partner, with a bilateral exchange of AU$235 billion worth of goods in 2018-19, representing an increase of 20.5 percent compared to the previous year. EFE-EPA