Australia taking China to WTO over wine duties

Australia taking China to WTO over wine duties

Beijing has imposed tough economic sanctions on a range of Australian products in recent months.
Beijing has imposed tough economic sanctions on a range of Australian products in recent months.

SYDNEY: Australia is lodging a formal complaint with the World Trade Organization over China's imposition of anti-dumping duties on Australian wine exports, the government announced Saturday.

The decision "to defend Australia's winemakers" follows a separate Australian WTO action protesting Chinese tariffs on Australian barley and is in line with the government's "support for the rules-based trading system", it said in a statement.

But it added that "Australia remains open to engaging directly with China to resolve this issue".

The move is the latest incident in an escalating tussle between Australia and its largest trading partner and follows warnings by Prime Minister Scott Morrison that his government will respond to countries trying to use "economic coercion" against it.

The action also came just a week after a summit of the G7 grouping of advanced economies echoed Australia's call for a tougher stand against China's trade practices and its more assertive stance globally.

Beijing has imposed tough economic sanctions on a range of Australian products in recent months, including imposing tariffs or using disruptive practices across several agricultural sectors, coal, wine and tourism.

Many in Canberra believe the measures are punishment for pushing back against Beijing's operations to impose influence in Australia, rejecting Chinese investment in sensitive areas and publicly calling for an investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

The G7 summit ended on June 12 with the announcement of US-led plans to counter China's trillion-dollar "Belt and Road Initiative", the hallmark of its efforts to extend economic influence around the world.

The grouping promised hundreds of billions of dollars in infrastructure investment for low- and middle-income countries in a "Build Back Better World" (B3W) project.

The B3W was seen as aimed squarely at competing with China's efforts, which has been widely criticised for saddling small countries with unmanageable debt.

Morrison attended the summit as part of a G7 plus formula that also brought in the leaders of South Korea, South Africa and India, and made clear he would push the other nations for joint action against China's aggressive trade policies.

"The most practical way to address economic coercion is the restoration of the global trading body's binding dispute-settlement system," he said in a speech just ahead of the summit.

"Where there are no consequences for coercive behaviour, there is little incentive for restraint," he said.

Morrison has received explicit backing in his government's confrontation with China from the US as well as from French President Emmanuel Macron during a visit to Paris following the G7 meeting.

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