The Australian government is calling on China confirm – or otherwise – if a range of Australian goods, including wines, will face new import curbs at China’s borders from Friday.
Certainly, some Australian wine exporters are now reported to be holding back on sending wine to China as they fear becoming embroiled in delays and additional red tape.
No official Chinese confirmation
According to media reports, a number of Chinese importers have told their Australian export partners that wine, cotton, wool, barley, lobster, sugar, timber and copper would not clear customs at several ports in China after Friday.
This has, however, not been officially confirmed and Trade Minister Simon Birmingham has now called for the Chinese government to speak directly with his office to clear up matters.
Yesterday, Senator Birmingham said it was “incumbent upon China, if their denials are genuine and accurate, to provide certainty and answers” after its Ministry of Commerce denied Chinese importers were told not to buy key Australian exports.
Speaking on radio 2GB, he added: “We want greater clarity so that our businesses can plan with confidence and Chinese importers can also plan with confidence; there are disruptions on both sides.
Questions over Chinese motivation
“Our door remains open to that dialogue; the ball is in their court,” Birmingham said.
Asked by 2GB if the escalating spat was linked to Australia’s call for an independent review of the origins of the coronavirus, the Minister said he could “certainly understand why many Australians would rightly question China’s motivations at this time, because China’s ambassador to Australia did come out and make certain threats earlier this year”.
The concerns of Australian exporters were raised a few notches when Treasury Wine Estate, a major exporter of wine to China, released a statement to the Australian Securities Exchange saying it had been advised of a request by China’s Alcoholic Drinks Association to have retrospective tariffs applied on Australian wines.
China is currently investigating claims Australian winemakers sold wine for below the cost of production, and argues that Australian winemakers are subsidised by the Federal Government.