Within hours of President Xi Jinping announcing he would back a probe into the coronavirus pandemic once it is “brought under control”, China moved swiftly to punish Australia.
China’s Commerce Industry confirmed it will levy anti-dumping duties on barley imports from May 19.
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Barley exporters have warned the tariffs could destroy the industry which had already seen exports slashed from $1.5 billion to $600 million last year.
China has accused Australia of dumping the barley exports. An anti-dumping duty rate of 73.6 per cent will be slapped on Australian barley imports from Tuesday.
China’s foreign ministry has claimed the new trade measures are not related to Australia’s call for an independent investigation of coronavirus.
But the Chinese controlled Global Times newspaper has lashed Prime Minister Scott Morrison for pushing for a probe.
“From China’s perspective, Australia has never been a friendly trading partner, and consultations with the country on trade issues have always been frustrating, which has apparently weakened its motivation to promote bilateral trade,’’ it said.
“The Australian government seems more interested in exploiting China’s suspension of some beef imports and its potential imposition of tariffs on Australian barley to describe itself as a victim of trade sanctions.”
With bilateral relations hitting a bottom point, any move taken by China that may impact the interests of Australian business could be interpreted by observers as retaliation or a threat to force Canberra to change tones or make “ideological compromise,” even though Australian officials admitted that the barley issue has been underway for some time and the beef import suspension also has good reasons.
Earlier, Agriculture Minister David Littleproud also confirmed on Monday he was unable to Chinese government officials as trade tensions escalated.
Australia has threatened to take the matter to the World Trade Organisation if the tariff is imposed.
Samantha Maiden is news.com.au’s national political editor | @samanthamaiden