Australia is launching a formal challenge to the World Trade Organization over heavy tariffs imposed by China on its barley exports.
Trade Minister Simon Birmingham acknowledged that appeals to the WTO “are not perfect and they take longer than would be ideal” in announcing the move Wednesday in Canberra. But he said that ultimately “it is the right avenue for Australia to take at this point.”
Beijing imposed an 80.5% anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duty on Australian barley back in May after claiming that barley farming was heavily subsidized by the government.
The tariffs are expected to cost Australian farmers over $300 million annually.
Birmingham said the reasons for China’s heavy tariffs “lack basis” and "are not underpinned by facts and evidence.”
Australia’s decision to seek redress with the WTO comes a day after Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned it would report China over information from state-run media that Chinese power plants have been given official approval to import coal from other nations without restrictions, except for Australia.
The disputes over Australia’s barley and coal exports to China are the latest chapters in Beijing’s increasingly bitter trade and diplomatic dispute with Canberra, which first turned sour when Canberra banned Chinese-based tech giant Huawei from building its new 5G broadband network, and further deteriorated over Australia’s push for an independent probe into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, which was first detected more than a year ago in central China.
In addition to the heavy barley tariffs, China has also suspended Australian beef imports and opened two probes into Australia’s lucrative wine import sector, with over $790 million in sales last year. Beijing has also advised its citizens and students to reconsider Australia as a destination for travel and education, citing racial discrimination.
China is Australia’s largest trading partner, with two-way trade worth $170 billion last year.