Minister urges China to follow trade rules

Daniel McCulloch and Paul Osborne
·2-min read

Australia is urging China to play by international trade rules as diplomatic tensions threaten more export products.

But efforts appear to be falling on deaf ears with major wine producer Treasury Wine Estates announcing to the stockmarket it had been advised Chinese producers had asked the Chinese Ministry of Commerce to subject Australian wine to retrospective tariffs.

It is not know whether Chinese trade authorities will accept the local industry association's request.

Treasury Wine said it would "continue to engage proactively" with its Chinese customers to assess the impact of the request on future import orders and support them in any new process requirements.

China is also reportedly preparing to slap import bans on Australian coal and sugar after targeting timber, rock lobster and barley.

Australian beef and cotton have also been hit with Chinese trade strikes and there are fears copper could be dragged into the dispute.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne said Australian officials were working at home and abroad to resolve the various trade concerns.

"We are continuing to seek clarity from the Chinese authorities both here in Australia and in China," she told reporters in Sydney on Wednesday.

"There has been a consistent denial of any targeting of Australian products and a commitment spoken of in relation to observation of trade rules.

"We would encourage Chinese authorities to act in accord with those rules."

Asked whether China was exercising economic coercion, Senator Payne replied: "We do have concerns of these issues."

"We expect our trade with China to be undertaken consistent with WTO obligations," she said.

The various trade strikes and sanctions coincide with deepening diplomatic tensions over coronavirus, Hong Kong and the South China Sea.

Australia's agriculture and trade ministers have been unable to contact their Chinese counterparts to discuss the trade headaches.

China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman refused to say whether more Australian products would soon be blocked.

Wang Wenbin said Chinese authorities took inspection and quarantine measures on imports seriously, before pivoting to trust and respect.

"China believes a sound and stable China-Australia relationship serves the fundamental interests of the two peoples. In the meantime, mutual respect is the foundation and guarantee of practical cooperation between countries," he said.

"We hope Australia can do more to enhance mutual trust and bilateral cooperation, as the China-Australia comprehensive strategic partnership calls for, and bring the bilateral relations back to the right track as early as possible."