Conservatives call to revisit trade agreements with China

February 07, 2019

The Conservative Party is calling for the federal government to review all trade agreements with China after Beijing foreshadowed hitting Australian farmers with a crushing tariff on barley imports.

Meanwhile, a deadline approaches for Australia to respond to China's anti-dumping action launched through the World Trade Organisation.

Australian exporters have been given until Monday to respond to China's dumping allegations, which came late last year hot on the heels of Canberra moving to counter Beijing's growing influence in the Pacific.

Australian farmers are bracing for the possibility that heavy provisional tariffs could be imposed within weeks and cripple a trade worth billions of dollars. China is Australia's largest barley export market, recently surpassing previous leading market Saudi Arabia, particularly for beer malt, and livestock feed. Likewise, Australia is China's largest source of barley, particularly malt barley.

Western Australia stands to be hardest hit by a potential dumping tariff, with its higher recent barley yields and rumours that some of its key export companies are named in China's WTO action.

China's Ministry of Commerce has outlined a case for an anti-dumping margin of 56 per cent after a big jump in barley imports from Australia.

Farmers, exporters and state and federal governments are also scrambling to respond to what many regard as a flimsy and hastily cobbled together countervailing duties claim lobbed just before the Christmas break that alleges the Australian barley industry is propped up by taxpayer-funded subsidies.

China's countervailing duties claim lists some 32 commonwealth and state initiatives in agriculture, many with no or only tenuous links to barley growing, including the $10 billion sustainable rural water use and infrastructure program focused on irrigation farming in the Murray Darling Basin.

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