The Strategist

Australia files WTO complaint against China

12/17/2020 - 04:46

Australian Trade, Investment and Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham has announced that Australia will initiate a formal complaint procedure with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) against China's actions against barley imports from Australia.

Relations between Australia and China, which in turn was hit by US trade sanctions back in 2018, escalated in the spring of this year. At that time, the Australian government called for an international investigation into the emergence of COVID-19 and to find those responsible for its spread around the world. In addition, Australia remains one of the most vocal critics of the Chinese authorities' policy towards the Uighurs. In the end, a trade conflict erupted between China and Australia. Chinese customs authorities first suspended some Australian shipments of beef and barley, claiming they did not meet the PRC’s sanitary standards. In August, Chinese authorities launched an anti-dumping investigation into Australian wines.

In early November it became known that China had imposed a ban on exports from Australia of a range of commodities, including coal, copper and sugar. At the end of November, China increased customs duties on Australian wine to 212% and in early December it restricted two leading Australian lamb suppliers, JBS and Australian Lamb Company.

As a result, Australia last week accused China of violating trade agreements, explaining that it could lodge a formal complaint against China's actions with the WTO. That promise was fulfilled today. Minister Birmingham said WTO proceedings "could take years", but stressed that the government had been forced to turn to such a tool to resolve the controversy. "WTO dispute settlement is not a perfect procedure and takes longer than it may seem necessary. However, it does involve an independent and transparent investigation of the problems encountered and implies a very important possibility of involving third countries or parties in the proceedings," the minister stressed.