Amid the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic, Australia on May 10 reportedly raised concern that China is considering imposing hefty tariffs on imports of Australian barley. While speaking to an international media outlet, the Australian Trade Minister, Simon Birmingham, said that the government is ‘deeply concerned’ by reports that ‘unjustified duties’ may be levied on the country’s barley exports into China.
According to reports, Australia is by far China’s top supplier of barley as the country exports AUD 1.5 billion to AUD 2 billion worth of grain a year. China also takes more than half of Australia’s barley exports. However, the Chinese tariff threat has raised concerns as last month it was also reported that China could also boycott Australian beef, wine, tourism and universities in response to Canberra’s push for the coronavirus inquiry.
The tariff threat comes as ties have reportedly frayed between Canberra and Beijing as Australia has been pushing for an investigation into the origins of the deadly virus outbreak. Birmingham said that the government is working with the Australian grains industry to mount the strongest possible case against China’s anti-dumping investigation.
However, Australian grain products reportedly said that they have been informed by China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) that it is considering imposing a dumping margin of up to 73 per cent and a subsidy margin of up to 6.9 per cent for barley imported from Australia. The chairman of industry group Grain Producers Australia, Andrew Weidemann, told the media outlet that China also alleged that the Australian grain producers have damaged their industry materially, however, he also added that the grain producers will be extremely disappointed if this was politically motivated.
The relations between Canberra and China were affected when last month Australian PM Scott Morrison called for an inquiry into the coronavirus outbreak. Morrison has been trying to gather international support to launch an investigation into the origin and course of the virus outbreak. However, he also insisted that though his call was not an attempt to target China, an independent assessment would seem entirely reasonable and sensible given the extraordinary impact and implications.
Earlier, Morrison also said that all the members of the World Health Organisation (WHO) should cooperate with the proposed independent inquiry into the spread of coronavirus. He said that the inquiry into the virus outbreak is necessary so that the world can learn the lessons. The 51-year-old leader opined that review and information gathered by independent public inspectors can undoubtedly save lives.