China will impose anti-subsidy fees on some Australian wine imports, ramping up pressure on the industry amid rising tensions between the two nations.
China’s commerce ministry said on Thursday it had imposed fresh import duties on Australian wine as it accused Canberra of giving firms subsidies, in the latest salvo in a bitter stand-off following last month’s swingeing anti-dumping tariffs.
The move comes as relations between both countries continue to sour after Australia called earlier this year for an inquiry into the origins of the Covid-19 outbreak, which emerged in China.
Read more: News Corp CEO fails to dampen Australian sale speculation
The anti-subsidy tariffs of 6.3% to 6.4% will kick in on Friday and come on top of November’s anti-dumping levies of 107% to 212%.
Australia’s trade minister, Simon Birmingham, said Australia rejected claims that its wines were subsidised.
“The different claims that have been made by China just don’t stand up to the evidence test, that’s why we will continue to defend, to appeal, and of course to call this behaviour out,” Birmingham told the Seven Network on Thursday morning.
China’s commerce ministry said the move followed a probe in late August.
“The investigation authority has preliminarily determined that there are subsidies for imported wines originating in Australia, and (China’s) domestic wine industry has suffered substantive damage,” said the ministry.
On Wednesday, Birmingham told parliament China was not adhering to a free trade agreement between the two nations or its World Trade Organisation obligations and appeared to be targeting Australian products.
Australia had raised concerns at a WTO meeting about China taking measures against Australian barley, wine, meat, dairy, live seafood, logs, timber, coal and cotton, he said.
The Chinese embassy responded saying the comments about China’s adherence to the free trade agreement were “totally unfounded”.
Cai Xuefei, an independent liquor industry analyst based in Hefei, said the subsidy decision was “a punishment”.
Australia-China relations have spiralled this year, with Beijing producing a laundry list of complaints about Australian policies, including its ban on Huawei’s participation in 5G in the country.
Beijing also suspended beef imports from four Australian slaughterhouses in May and hit barley shipments from the country with tariffs.
Australian Grape and Wine chief executive Tony Battaglene said the wine industry disputes the subsidy allegation. “We don’t believe it is substantiated,” he said.
Winemakers had already made commercial decisions to divert wine shipments away from China after the anti-dumping tariffs were imposed, with some companies removing wine from ships en-route to China when they docked in Singapore, he said.
- Additional reporting by AFP