'Take a cold shower': Australia responds to China's drastic trade move

·3-min read

Australian agriculture Minister David Littleproud has hosed down suggestions of a trade war with China amid a probe into the origins of coronavirus.

China agreed to support an investigation after more than 110 countries, including Australia, co-sponsored a motion at the World Health Assembly on Monday night.

On Tuesday, Australia suffered its 100th coronavirus death.

Australia's push for the inquiry into the origin of the virus sparked fury from Beijing with diplomatic ties between the two nations under intense pressure.

Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud at a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra.
Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud has played down suggestions China's tariffs on Australian barley have anything to do with calls into the origin of COVID-19. Source: AAP (file pic)

China has imposed harsh taxes on Australian barley with separate 73.6 per cent anti-dumping and 6.9 per cent anti-subsidy tariffs introduced from Tuesday.

The government’s played down talk the tariffs are a reaction to calls for an investigation into COVID-19, which is believed to have originated in Wuhan, China.

Mr Littleproud said “there is no trade war”.

“Everyone needs to take a deep breath, take a cold shower and understand that we produce the best food and fibre in the world and we have marketplaces that we’ll be able to send our barley and other produce into other markets if our producers wish to do so,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

A Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldier walks past a banner depicting Chinese President Xi Jinping near the Forbidden City, in Beijing, China.
A Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldier walks past a banner depicting Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing. Source: AAP

He added the government would find it “very disappointing” if the tariffs are linked to calls into the virus’s origins given China agreed to support the WHA investigation.

Mr Littleproud said China has argued farmers have been subsidised through farm household allowance, which is a social security payment, and through programs with the Murray-Darling Basin.

But these claims “are false”, he added.

China’s also accused Australia of dumping imported barley causing the domestic industry “substantial damage”.

He said the government’s working with China to understand its reasoning and if there isn’t a resolution they will go to the World Trade Organisation.

‘Growers are completely gutted’

Grain Producers Australia chairman Andrew Weidemann said the tariffs would have a huge impact on the industry.

"Most growers are completely gutted with the news," he told Sky News on Tuesday.

"It's really a bitter blow to the Australian economy as well."

He said farmers would lose $500 million in value out of the current crop, which most growers have just finished planting.

Dairy farmer Jamie Watts sows barley on his property on the Darling Downs, Queensland.
A farmer sows barley in Queensland's Darling Downs. Source: AAP

National Farmers' Federation chief executive Tony Mahar said China's claims were completely false.

"It is particularly devastating after the time that Australian farmers have had in the last number of years with droughts, floods and fires," he told ABC News Breakfast.

Australia is the biggest barley supplier to China, exporting more than half of its exports worth up to $2 billion a year.

Producers will be on the hunt for new export markets with India and Indonesia, which has recently signed a trade deal with Australia, considered prime options.

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham is keeping the option of an appeal to the World Trade Organisation open.

"I am deeply, deeply disappointed," he told ABC Radio National.

"We reject the premise and the basis upon which these findings have been made. That's why we'll keep working hard to defend the integrity of our farmers and make sure they find new markets."

The global trade umpire could take up to three years to deliver a decision if Australia decides to pursue an appeal.

Mr Littleproud said Australia is open to pursuing other markets and pointed out nations within the Middle East are also interested in Australian barley.

with AAP

Do you have a story tip? Email: newsroomau@yahoonews.com.

You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and download the Yahoo News app from the App Store or Google Play.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting