Sydney, Australia, June 19 (EFE).- Australia Saturday said it would file a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO) over the wine tariff dispute with China, stepping up the trade and diplomatic tensions with Beijing.
Trade Minister Dan Tehan said his country would defend the interests of its wine industry that has “had a serious impact” due to the tariff increases by the Chinese government.
“We stand ready to sit down with the Chinese government to work out the dispute with them,” Tehan said in a video posted by national broadcaster ABC on its website.
“While we are not in a position to do so, we will use every other mechanism to try and resolve this dispute and other disputes that we have with the Chinese government.”
Australian wine exports to China plummeted 96 percent in the first quarter of the year after Beijing raised import tariffs by 218 percent in November 2020.
Tehan said the exports to China fell from $1.1 billion to $20 million after China levied the tariffs first.
“In March this year, the Chinese government put (anti-dumping) duties on Australian wine ranging between 116 percent to 220 percent,” the minister said.
“We have decided to take this wine dispute to the World Trade Organization. We will be asking for WTO consultations with the Chinese government on this wine dispute.”
Tehan acknowledged that the process at the WTO would take between two to four years for the resolution.
It is the second time in six months that Australia has sought WTO intervention after complaining in December last year over the Chinese imposition of anti-dumping duties on wine exports.
China has also raised import taxes on Australian barley for the same reasons.
Canberra accuses Beijing of violating trade agreements by imposing tariffs on Australian products.
Beijing says 95 percent of Australian products have zero tariffs.
China and Australia signed a free trade agreement in 2015.
The bilateral tensions worsened when Australia launched an investigation into the origin of Covid-19, believed to be in China, which angered Beijing.
Australia vetoed Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE in 2018 from concessions on their fifth-generation (5G) telecoms network for security reasons.
Australian authorities have also approved laws to limit foreign economic and diplomatic influence in the country without directly citing China. EFE