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Australia-China wine trade dispute: Canberra considers involving WTO

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Photo taken on Dec. 5, 2020 shows the wine made of cherry in the town of Young in Australia. The town of Young is dubbed the “Cherry Capital of Australia”.

Chu Chen | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images

Australia is considering whether it should get the World Trade Organization involved in an ongoing dispute with China, Trade Minister Dan Tehan told CNBC on Wednesday.

China’s commerce ministry in March announced anti-dumping tariffs between 116.2% and 218.4% on Australian wine imports — measures that are set to last for five years. Last year, it launched an anti-dumping probe into wine imports from Down Under and introduced preliminary duties.

Separately, China levied additional temporary tariffs of around 6.3% to 6.4% in December, following a different probe into Australian wine subsidy schemes.

“We have worked very closely with the Australian wine industry to understand the injury that has been caused by the actions that China’s taken,” Tehan, who is also the minister for tourism and investment, said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia.”

“We’ll be making an announcement on whether we will go to the WTO with regards to wine in the coming weeks,” he said.

I’ve written to my Chinese counterpart … my hope is that we can sit down and work through these issues. Dialogue is the best way to resolve issues.

Dan Tehan

Australia Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment

Tehan reiterated Australia’s call to engage in dialogue with China to resolve pending issues — something that other Australian officials have echoed in the past.

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“I’ve written to my Chinese counterpart,” he said, explaining that Canberra wants a constructive relationship with Beijing. “So far, I haven’t had a response to that correspondence, but my hope is that we can sit down and work through these issues. Dialogue is the best way to resolve issues.”

Meanwhile, Tehan said Australia is looking at ways to find new markets for its products. It is currently negotiating a free trade agreement with the United Kingdom and the European Union.

“We are always looking as well at other opportunities that we can pursue, whether it be through our existing trading partners or by opening up new avenues to be able to explore,” he added.

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