Australia will ask the World Trade Organization to investigate China’s punitive tariffs on barley imports, he said on Wednesday, in a significant escalation of tensions between the two countries.
Trade Minister Simon Birmingham announced the decision, saying Beijing’s 80 percent surcharge on barley imports from Australia “lacked merit” and “was not supported by facts and evidence. », Adding that similar measures could be taken in other sectors.
Relations between Australia and China are at their lowest since the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989, after Beijing rolled out a series of economic sanctions against Australian products.
“We are confident that based on the evidence, data and analysis that we have already gathered, Australia has an incredibly strong case,” Birmingham said.
Australia’s barley exports to China were worth around US $ 1 billion per year before a recent drought and are used mainly in the manufacture of beer.
Experts say Beijing has considered restricting imports of Australian barley since 2018, fearing that China – which only produces about 20% of the barley it needs – is too dependent on imports.
But the tariffs came amid fierce disputes between Canberra and Beijing that raised fears that the measures were also politically motivated.
Each dispute has been touted as a technical issue, but many in Canberra believe the sanctions are retaliation for Australia for pushing back Chinese influence in its country and the Asia-Pacific region.
At least 13 Australian sectors have been subjected to tariffs or some form of disruption, including barley, beef, coal, copper, cotton, lobster, sugar, timber, tourism, universities , wine, wheat and wool.
Australia had so far avoided bringing the disputes to the Geneva-based organization, fearing the settlement would take years, expose Australia to retaliation and further worsen relations.
Tensions with China have challenged Australia’s decades-old economic model – one based on providing the raw materials necessary for China’s unbridled emergence as a modern economy.
© 2020 AFP