China’s decision to impose heavy tariffs on the importing of Australian wine is a “devastating blow” to the industry, trade minister Simon Birmingham has warned.
He said the newly announced tariffs would double or triple the price of Australian wines, making the Chinese market unviable for exporters.
Currently China is the biggest export market for Australian wines and receives about 37% of all the country’s wines that are sold overseas. The total value of the market is around $800-million.
New tariffs imposed from Saturday
On Friday, Beijing said it was imposing anti-dumping duties of up to 212% on Australian wines, which came into effect on Saturday.
The Ministry of Commerce said the decision was in response to complaints from Chinese wine producers that their sales were damaged by improperly low-priced Australian imports. The ministry first announced an investigation in the alleged dumping of Australian wines in late August.
“After filing the case, the ministry of commerce conducted an investigation in strict accordance with the relevant laws and regulations of China and the WTO rules, and made the above preliminary ruling,” the ministry noted in a media statement.
Move is ‘unjustified’, says minister
“This is a devastating blow to those businesses who trade with China in the wine industry,” Birmingham said. “It will render unviable for many businesses their wine trade with China. And clearly, we think it’s unjustified, and without evidence to back it up.”
“Australia defends to the hilt our winemakers, their integrity, and the commercial market-based proposition and environment in which they operate. The idea that Australia somehow subsidises our wine industry for it to be able to dump or sell its product below cost on international markets is a falsehood.”
The minister added that it was “a very distressing time for many hundreds of Australian wine producers, who have built in good faith a sound market in China”.
Ongoing retaliation by Chinese govt.
Weighing into the debate, agriculture minister David Littleproud, said the government would defend the wine industry against what he called “outrageous” tariffs.
“We’re trying to get an appreciation of the reasoning behind the determination in introducing these tariffs,” he said.
In what is seen as ongoing retaliation for Australia’s calls for an investigation into the origin of the coronavirus pandemic, which began in China, the Asian nation has curbed or halted a range of imports from Australia. These include beef, barley, coal, seafood, sugar and timber.