Australia will challenge China’s tariffs on its barley exports by appealing to the World Trade Organization (WTO).
It marks the first defensive move from Australia in response to several Chinese sanctions on several products this year.
As political tensions escalate, Beijing has imposed restrictions or tariffs on milk, meat, wine, and others.
This has caused concern in Australia as China is its largest trading partner, accounting for about 40% of exports.
Earlier this week, Chinese state-controlled media reported that China, the world’s third-largest exporter – would face a ban on Australian thermal coal exports.
Beijing declined to confirm the report. It has previously accused Australia of being “fanatical” and “hostile”.
Tensions have risen over China’s alleged foreign intervention and influence in Australian affairs.
‘Take it to the umpire’
The 80% tariff on China’s barley – imposed in May – was the first Australian agricultural export approved this year, and Chinese trade officials have been accused of practicing dumping illegally.
The Australian government has denied this, saying its repeated requests to Beijing for dialogue on trade issues have been ignored.
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On Wednesday, Australia’s commerce minister said raising the issue to the International Trade Organization was a “fitting next step” for the country.
“We ask the independent umpire to decide the verdict and help in the end,” said Simon Birmingham.
He added that “if both sides agreed to come to the table” Australia was open to resolving the dispute outside the WTO case.
Last week, he accused China of undermining the two countries’ Free Trade Agreement – the 2015 agreement that reduced tariffs and increased access to goods.
Analysts estimate that a quarter of Australia’s A80 billion exports to China are still influenced by political Qatar.
In response to the coal news on Tuesday, Beijing’s foreign ministry said “some people on the Australian side have claimed so-called casualties”.
Spokesman Wang Weinbin added that Australia has blocked or canceled Chinese trade agreements in Australia for unsupported reasons. Canberra has blocked some agreements based on national security concerns.