Australia will move to protect its multi-billion-dollar wine industry from punitive new Chinese tariffs, its agriculture minister said on Friday, raising the threat of World Trade Organisation counter-measures.
“The Australian government will vigorously defend the industry,” David Littleproud said, vowing to appeal a ruling announced by Beijing on Friday.
Within hours wine importers will have to pay deposits of 107.1 percent to 212.1 percent, in response to “substantive harm” China said was caused by allegedly mispriced Australian products.
“We have 10 days in which to appeal, and we’ll work closely with the industry around that,” said Mr Littleproud, suggesting the move may be politically motivated and linked to a growing spat between the two countries.
“We’re deeply concerned by this,” he added. “In light of the recent comments by China, it gives the perception this decision is predicated on something other than any wrongdoing by the wine industry.”
Mr Littleproud called for talks with China – although minister-level contacts have dried up in recent months – but said Australia could also turn to the WTO for help.
“Obviously we’ll exhaust all avenues available to us through the WTO,” he said.
Under WTO rules, member states can ask for tariffs or other barriers to trade to be examined.
If found to be unfair, Australia could win the right to impose countervailing duties of similar value on Chinese goods.