Australia hoping for ‘systemic change’ by taking China to WTO

The federal government has confirmed it will now take official steps to address trade tensions with China, by appealing to the World Trade Organisation.

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham says the government will make a formal request for consultations with China to the WTO tonight.

It comes after Beijing put tariffs in place for Australian barley exports earlier this year, which is expected to cost the industry around $2.5 billion over the next few years.


Minister Birmingham says it’s time to start taking official action.

“We have been a long-standing defender of the International rules -based system, of the importance of multilateral cooperation and engagement.

“In doing so it is appropriate that, when we argue for there to be international rules and an independent international umpire to resolve disputes, that when we find ourselves in the case of having such disputes we call in the umpire,” he said.

“So I will be initiating this dispute with China in relation to the barley industry, we again instead extend the important offer of dialogue and discussion as an off-road, and off-ramp to this dispute.”

It follows consistent moves made by China against Australia this year, the most recent involving our wine industry. While a number of abattoirs have been suspended from selling into China. We’ve also seen bans on seafood, timber and coal this year.

Minister Birmingham says that while this formal request is on the matter of barley, he’s hoping for a bit of a ‘systemic solution’ to some of our other troubles.

“We want a specific outcome that recognises Australia’s grain growers and barley industries operating in nothing other than an entirely commercial ways with the utmost integrity.

“But we almost want a systemic outcome, that identifies the fact that decisions that have been reached by Chinese authorities lack basis, are not underpinned by facts and evidence, and ultimately lead -we hope – to change in relation to their practices.

“The WTO processes and enable and allow for third parties or other countries to become third parties to the processes as well.

“We will welcome the participation of other nations through these processes, which will mean that this is not just a matter that is assessed in relation to the Australia barley industry, but will hopefully give rise to greater confidence in terms of the Chinese application of these processes to all nations in the future,” Minister Birmingham said.