Australia files WTO complaint against China over wine duties

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Bottles of Australian wine are seen at a store selling imported wine in Beijing
FILE PHOTO: Bottles of Australian wine are seen at a store selling imported wine in Beijing, China November 27, 2020. REUTERS/Florence Lo

June 28, 2021

GENEVA (Reuters) – Australia has filed a formal complaint to the World Trade Organization over China’s duties on bottled wine imports, the WTO confirmed on Monday.

The dispute is the second that Canberra has launched at the global trade body against China amid growing tensions. The first, launched in December, is over China’s barley import duties and is currently under consideration at the WTO.

The latest so-called ‘request for consultations’ filed at the WTO in Geneva gives both sides 60 days to confer. If they fail to agree, a WTO dispute panel may be set up.

Australia’s foreign minister has previously said that such a complaint should enable bilateral negotiations.

Relations with China have worsened since Canberra called for an international inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus, which was first reported in China in late 2019.

China, Australia’s largest trading partner, responded by imposing tariffs on Australian commodities, including wine and barley and limited imports of Australian beef, coal and grapes, moves described by the United States as “economic coercion”.

At a closed-door WTO meeting on Monday, Canada also sought to escalate a trade dispute with China over the latter’s restrictions on canola seed imports from Canada.

However, China rejected the request to establish a formal panel, saying it believed it is premature, according to a Geneva-based trade official following the meeting.

(Reporting by Emma Farge; Editing by Paul Simao)