Australia to challenge China barley tariffs through WTO


Australia had until now shied away from taking the disputes to the Geneva-based organization, fearing resolution could take years, open Australia up to retaliatory claims and worsen relations further.

It is the first time Australia has taken legal action against China at the WTO over what commentators have dubbed "shadow trade war" between Beijing and Canberra.

In May, Beijing slapped over 80% of five-year duties on Australian barley exports, including a 73.6% anti-dumping tariff and a 6.9% anti-subsidy tariff, following a 16-month probe into an anti-dumping complaint.

Morrison said Tuesday that Australia sends 4 billion Australian dollars ($3 billion) worth of thermal coal to China each year, adding that Japan is a bigger market than China for those exports.

"We have continued to raise our concerns with China on numerous occasions", Birmingham said, lamenting that efforts to reach a negotiated settlement had failed.

Only Western Australia, which sent more than 50 per cent of exports to China due to its iron ore production, was more dependent on that trade.

Mr Tunny has estimated a complete ban on Queensland thermal coal could cost the state budget $100m to $170m if exporters can't find alternative customers with impacts on other tax revenues and potential job losses.

"We have a series of different actions that China has taken during the course of the year and each of them come with slightly different criteria for how you might respond in the WTO".

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China has launched trade strikes and sanctions against a range of Australian goods including beef, barley, wine, seafood and timber.

China's commerce ministry defended the tariff earlier this month. Shares in Coronado Global and Yancoal Australia each plunged more than 8% in Sydney on Tuesday.

However hours later Mr Wang insisted it was Australia who was breaching the nations' Free Trade Agreement.

Analysts at ANZ Research wrote in a research note that the Chinese reports confirm "what has been assumed ever since reports of import restrictions on coal from Australia emerged in October".

FILE - Coal is unloaded onto large piles at the Ulan Coal mines near the central New South Wales town of Mudgee in Australia, March 8, 2018.

"We are highly confident that based on the evidence, data and analysis we have put together already, Australia has an incredibly strong case to mount in relation to defending the integrity and proprietary of our grain growers and barley producers", Senator Birmingham said. "It is important that while this is underway, the Australian Government also prioritise strengthening trade relationships and market access for Australian agriculture and our barley industry", he said.

The Global Times also published an opinion piece that labelled Australia an "anti-China pioneer" with a "sense of anxiety" about being invaded.

"We see these reports and obviously are again deeply troubled by them".