Australian Producers Hope China’s Wine Tariffs Will Soon End

SYDNEY — China’s high tariffs on Australian wine could be lifted within weeks, according to an interim statement from Chinese authorities saying the duties are no longer necessary.

When diplomatic friction between Australia and its biggest trading partner was at its most intense, Beijing imposed 220% taxes on bottled wine from Australia.

Chinese authorities said Australia was guilty of anti-competitive behavior, but analysts believe China’s economic measures were meant as a punishment.

The value of Australian wine exports to China fell from more than $662 million at their peak to just $6.6 million last year.

Last October, Beijing agreed to a review of the tariffs.  That decision came after the previous conservative government in Canberra referred the tax issue to the World Trade Organization in late 2021.

The Chinese Ministry of Commerce has now recommended in an “interim draft determination” that the tariffs be removed.

China said Thursday that Foreign Minister Wang Yi, will visit Australia for the first time in seven years.  He is scheduled to hold talks with the Australian foreign affairs minister, Penny Wong, in Canberra next Wednesday.

Wang’s visit was welcomed by Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.  He told reporters Thursday there had been “significant progress” in removing trade impediments.

Australia’s Labor government – elected in May 2022 – has sought to defuse tensions with China over human rights, democracy in Hong Kong, Taiwan and the origins of COVID-19.

One by one, Chinese restrictions on Australian barley, beef, coal and cotton have been lifted.

Mitchell Taylor, managing director of Taylors Wines in South Australia, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. Thursday that he hopes the wine tariffs will soon end.

“We are cautiously optimistic,” he said. “This is terrific news and I must say our trade minister Don Farrell has done a great job in rebuilding trade relations with our largest trading partner.  But at the same time, we have lost our market share to the French and the Chilean winemakers.”

China is, by far, Australia’s largest trading partner, accounting for almost one-third of Australia’s total global trade.

Earlier this month, a Canberra government-backed task force was announced to help Australia’s wine industry, which has suffered under Chinese tariffs and an international oversupply of red wine.

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