Australia seeks talks over wine with China

China has dealt a blow to the Australian wine industry by imposing levies of up to 212 per cent.
China has dealt a blow to the Australian wine industry by imposing levies of up to 212 per cent.

The Australian government is desperate to get to the negotiating table with China as lofty trade tariffs kick in on Aussie wine exports and the opposition calls for a broader market.

Levies of up to 212 per cent were imposed on Saturday, serving a heavy blow to the valuable sector, which has previously benefited from zero tariffs under the China-Australia free trade agreement.

China claims to have found "substantive" evidence of the dumping of Australian wine, causing "material damage" to their local market.

But Canberra suspects other motives, possibly stemming from China's grievance list spanning foreign investment rules, banning Huawei from the 5G network and the push for an inquiry into the origins of COVID-19.

"What the government is doing is seeking to address a concerning pattern of behaviour by the Chinese against Australia," cabinet minister Dan Tehan said on Saturday.

"We're seeking to have conversations with the Chinese, seeking to address this matter in the World Trade Organisation so we can ensure we're doing the right thing by our winemakers."

The tariffs range between 107.1 per cent and 212.1 per cent and Australian wine manufacturers say the duties have the potential to ruin them.

"The Chinese have had a huge demand for Australian wine due to its quality and we want to make sure we can continue to export wine to China. That will be part of ongoing dialogue with the Chinese," Mr Tehan said.

China says Australia should reflect on its own behaviour, including whether it has respected China's interests.

A former Australian agriculture minister, Labor's Tony Burke, said the coalition government needed to expand its trade market so it was not so reliant on one country.

"You need to make sure that you have a number of export markets," Mr Burke said.

"Managing the China relationship responsibly is critically important. But it's also the case for any industry that you never want to be too beholden to a single market. And it's the government's job to help industry spread its risk."

Australian Associated Press