Australia expects to hear news within days on China’s four-month review of its punitive tariffs on Australian barley exports, Trade Minister Don Farrell said, in what would be the latest sign of improving ties between Canberra and Beijing.
(Bloomberg) — Australia expects to hear news within days on China’s four-month review of its punitive tariffs on Australian barley exports, Trade Minister Don Farrell said, in what would be the latest sign of improving ties between Canberra and Beijing.
With just over a week to go until the review’s Aug. 11 deadline, Farrell said in an interview on Thursday that there was “goodwill” between China and Australia and he was hopeful of a positive answer from Beijing.
“They may make us wait until the very last day,” Farrell said in his Parliament House office in Canberra. “But given the amount of time that they’ve had, they must be very close to making a decision.”
China imposed tariffs of more than 80% on Australian barley in May 2020, accusing its exporters of dumping on the Chinese market right as ties between the two countries were spiraling downward. But since the election of the center-left Labor government in May 2022, communications between Canberra and Beijing have resumed and relations improved markedly.
In April, the Chinese government announced it would hold a three-month review into the barley tariffs, in return for which Canberra agreed to suspend its case against Beijing in the World Trade Organization. Farrell said at the time he hoped a similar deal could be reached over imposts on Australian wine.
Beijing sought a one-month extension of the barley review in July, meaning it’s due by late next week. Farrell said he made it very clear that if sanctions aren’t lifted, Australia will resume its case against China in the WTO.
Separately, Farrell said no new date has been set yet for a resumption of free trade talks with the European Union after discussions broke down in July. That followed persistent disagreements over levels of market access for Australian agricultural exports, particularly beef.
Both sides had sought to complete the deal by the end of August, but Australia found the EU’s offer on export quotas insufficient. EU negotiators are also insisting Australian farmers stop using geographical locators for a number of food items such as brie, prosecco and feta, which Farrell described as an “emotional issue” for the agriculture sector.
Talks were expected to resume in August and while Farrell said there were a “few options,” nothing has been finalized.
“We’ll meet any time, any place,” the minister said, adding his personal preference would be for the meeting to be held in Australia.
“I did make the observation to Commissioner Dombrovskis that I’ve now been to Europe three times and the Europeans have not come to Australia once,” he said. Farrell added that progress has been made and he is still confident of striking an agreement.
“But it’s going to take some more hard work over the next few weeks or months to nail it,” he said.
–With assistance from James Mayger.
(Updates with Farrell comments on EU trade deal.)
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