By Peter Roberts
Years of deteriorating relations between Beijing and Canberra have led to the imposition of tariffs of up to 200 per cent on Chinese imports of Australian wine.
Following an anti-dumping inquiry, China’s Ministry of Commerce today imposed temporary tariffs with no end date, forcing prestige winemaker Treasury Wine Estates into a stockmarket trading halt.
A tariff of between 107 per cent and 212 per cent now applies to Australian wine imports to China which are worth $1.2 billion a year.
Australian winemakers are accused of dumping wine in China, harming the competitiveness of local producers.
That the rationale for the tariffs is so transparently wrong – Australian wine sells at a premium to that produced by the young Chinese industry, so why would we discount the price – says it all.
The simmering trade dispute between Australia and its biggest trading partner is now out in the open.
From a cool war that saw coal ships being delayed in unloading and seafood rejected for quality reasons we are now at the point of draconian sanctions on our trade.
The origins of the dispute are complex with both sides sharing blame.
China has been rightly criticised for its human rights abuses in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) in western China and in Hong Kong.
But it was Australia hitching itself to a Trumpian demand on China that it allow an international investigation into how the Covid-19 outbreak started that really did the damage.
There was no possible likelihood China would agree to such a loss of face.
That was compounded by undisciplined attacks on China by right-wing backbenchers, including absurd calls for us to stop trading with China.
Whatever the cause, Australia’s trade with its biggest trading partner is under threat.
Canberra must respond with dialogue, not media-reported attacks on the middle kingdom.
At lunchtime today trade minister Andrew Birmingham had not responded to the tariff news.
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