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Hope for light at end of China tunnel?

Words by Harrison Davies

Questions about the status of the Chinese tariffs on Australian wine were raised this week following a report from the Hong Kong based publication Vino Joy News entitled; “China’s punitive tariffs on Australian wine to be lifted in H1”.

The report covered an event held in Beijing and organised by the China Australia Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by Australian wine exporter Auswan.

In the article, written by Natalie Wang, former Australian Ambassador to China Dr Geoff Raby eluded to the end of the tariffs imposed on Australian wine, citing that the two countries were “on the right track”.

Wang writes that there were a number of signals pointing to a relaxation in exporting restrictions.

“The optimism in wine also comes on the heels of several breakthroughs including China’s lifting of an unofficial ban on Australian coal earlier this year and a soon-to-be expected relaxation on timber, as relations warm,” Wang writes.

“However, the former ambassador cautions that resumption of tariff-free wine trade under previous Free Trade Agreement would also depend on the two countries’ ongoing WTO dispute.

“After China officially slapped up to 218% tariffs on Australian wines in March 2021, Australia reacted by bringing the case to WTO, which is expected to deliver a final report this year around June.”

This cautious optimism is mirrored by Australian wine industry bodies and advocates, who have not shared any news of an end to tariffs publicly but have acknowledged a “warming” of relations.

Australian Grape & Wine CEO Lee Mclean was optimistic about the progress of the talks between Australian and Chinese trade bodies.

“The recent meetings between Australian and Chinese political leaders clearly indicate the bilateral relationship is on a positive trajectory,” McLean said.

“While I would not want to put a time-frame on a re-opening of the market, we hope the improved bilateral relationship can present the right conditions for ongoing dialogue and the removal of the import duties on Australian wines exported to China.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has been in talks with Beijing to negotiate an end to the trade stoush and mirrored Mclean’s sentiments regarding the situation of Australian wine in China.

“The Australian Government has been clear that we look for a timely resumption of normal exports to China in all products, which is in both countries’ interests,” a spokesperson for the Department said.

“We continue to challenge the duties imposed by China on Australian barley and wine at the WTO, while pursuing dialogue to resolve all remaining trade impediments consistent with our national interest.”

Wine Australia, the Australian wine industry’s statutory body, said it was important for Australian wine producers to remain realistic and acknowledged the negotiations regarding the Australian wine tariffs were ongoing.

“Wine Australia is continuing to work in close collaboration with the Australian Government and sector representatives to monitor and support our sector’s interests,” Wine Australia CEO Dr Martin Cole said.

“We know that trade and consumer sentiment for Australian wine in China remains positive.”

 

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