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China files WTO suit over Australia’s anti-dumping duties

China's tariffs virtually closed what had been Australia's biggest overseas wine market, with sales falling from $840 million to just $15 million. Photo: Reuters.

Beijing-Canberra relations sink further as nations tussle over train wheels, wind turbines and even the kitchen sink

(AF) China said on Thursday it had filed a lawsuit at the World Trade Organization challenging Australia’s anti-dumping measures on a range of goods, marking a further escalation in tensions between the two countries.

The suit – regarding Chinese exports of train wheels, wind turbines and stainless steel sinks – comes a week after Canberra challenged Beijing’s crippling tariffs on Australian wine exports.

It aims to “safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies”, Chinese Commerce ministry spokesman Gao Feng said at a regular briefing Thursday.

“We hope that Australia will take concrete actions to correct its wrong practices, avoid distortions in the trade of related products, and bring such trade back to the normal track as soon as possible.”

Australian Trade minister Dan Tehan told reporters that Canberra would “vigorously defend the duties that we have put in place”, questioning the timing of the action. “Why they’ve taken this action now is a question that you would have to ask China.”

He said although Canberra wanted a “constructive engagement with the Chinese government” the measures were implemented “after a rigorous analysis.”

China in November announced tariffs of up to 218% on Australian wines, which it said were being “dumped” into the Chinese market at subsidised prices.

WINE COLLAPSE

The crackdown virtually closed what had been Australia’s biggest overseas wine market, with sales falling from $840 million to just $15 million, according to official figures.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has warned that his government would respond forcefully to countries trying to use “economic coercion” against Australia.

The decision last week “to defend Australia’s winemakers” came six months after Canberra lodged a separate protest at the WTO over tariffs on Australian barley, exports of which to China had been worth around $1 billion a year.

Beijing has imposed tough economic sanctions on a range of Australian products over the past year, ranging from high tariffs to disruptive practices across several agricultural sectors and tourism.

On Monday, Gao said China “opposes the abuse of trade remedy measures, which not only damages the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies, but also hurts the solemnness and authority of WTO rules”.

But the tit-for-tat measures are widely seen in Canberra as punishment for pushing back against Beijing’s operations to impose influence in Australia, rejecting Chinese investment in sensitive areas and publicly calling for an investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier this month a summit of the G7 advanced economies echoed Australia’s call for a tougher stand against China’s trade practices and its more assertive stance globally.

With reporting by Agence France-Presse

ALSO SEE:

WTO seeks to resolve Australia-China row over barley

Australian prime minister slams China over trade bullying

George Russell

George Russell is a freelance writer and editor based in Hong Kong who has lived in Asia since 1996. His work has been published in the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, New York Post, Variety, Forbes and the South China Morning Post.

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