Trade Minister Simon Birmingham expects Australia will eventually take its complaint with China over barley imports to the World Trade Organisation as the conflict between the two countries continues to grow.
In the latest stoush with its number one trading partner, China has imposed levies of up to 212 per cent on Australian wine exports.
It adds to a growing list of Australian exports that have become entangled in a diplomatic war of words between the two countries, including coal, timber, meat, lobsters and barley.
Asked on ABC television’s Insiders program whether he will take Australia’s compliant over barley to the WTO, Senator Birmingham said: “I expect that that is the process that we will go through with.”
“If you stand by the rules-based system, you should also use that rules-based system, which includes calling out where you think the rules have been broken and calling in the international umpire to help resolve those disputes.”
He said while the government has welcomed the rise of the Chinese economy, it has also become more assertive in other ways.
“What we want to see is that assertiveness channelled into good, into engaging in ways with the rest of the world, that helps to drive economic growth rather than dampens it,” Senator Birmingham said.
“These types of actions don’t just hurt Australian businesses … they undermine confidence in the global economy and that’s not good for the world’s recover from COVID, not just our own.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison admits the trade issues with China are creating difficult times but says Australia is no stranger to that.
But he compares these conflicts with China to previous economic setbacks like the oil price shock, the commodity boom and bust and the creation of the European Common Market.
“All of these things economically have caused shocks into the system,” Mr Morrison told ABC radio on Sunday morning.
However he said the agriculture sector has proved to resilient to these in the past.
“We will do everything we can to ensure we can try and address these trade issues that have come up with China, technicality issues that they have raised, but obviously we are very concerned about that,” he said.
He said that is one of the reasons why over the past seven years the government has expanded the amount of its trade covered by agreements from 26 per cent to 70 per cent.
“So much of our trade now is covered by agreements,” he said.
While the trade argy-bargy continues, data last week showed Australian iron ore exports reached a record high of $10.9 billion in October, most of which was destined for China.