Australia to hunt WTO intervention in barley row with China

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) – Australia will call on the World Trade Organization to intervene in the barley dispute with China and expects other nations to become involved, Australian Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said on Wednesday.

China effectively ended imports of Australian barley in May by imposing tariffs of more than 80% on the crop and accusing Australia of violating WTO rules by subsidizing barley production and selling the grain in China at lower production costs.

Birmingham said Australia would formally ask the WTO to intervene on Wednesday.

“WTO dispute settlement processes are not perfect and take longer than ideal, but ultimately it is the way to go for Australia at this point,” Birmingham told reporters.

“It is quite common for other countries to become third parties in WTO proceedings. Australia has done this on many occasions, China has done this on many occasions, and I would assume others would do it on that occasion, ”he added.

China is the largest market for Australian barley farmers. The grain is among a growing number of commodities that China is targeting as bilateral ties plunge to new depths.

Australian seafood, wood, beef and wine trade has also been suspended since Australia angered China by requesting an independent investigation into the causes of the coronavirus pandemic.

Australia is seeking clarification on recent Chinese state media reports that Australian coal imports have been banned.

Birmingham said China has made “a series of decisions that look like sanctions against Australia”.

When asked about reports of coal exports, China Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Tuesday that Australia “disguises itself as a victim” while China complies with its own laws, regulations and international practices.

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