China is set to impose anti-dumping duties of more than 100% on Australian wine from this weekend, following a series of sweeping trade reprisals this year and further escalating tensions with Canberra.
The anti-dumping deposits will take effect Saturday and range from 107.1% to 212.1%, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce said in a statement Friday.
The duties come just three months after China started an anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigation into Australian wine, and follows a raft of other measures this year barring imports from coal to copper to barley.
China is the biggest buyer of Australian wine, importing 1.2 billion Australian dollars (¥92 billion) in the year through September, according to government marketing body Wine Australia. That’s 167% more than the value of exports to its next biggest market, the U.S.
"Obviously we’ll vigorously defend this,” Australian Agriculture Minister David Littleproud told reporters, adding that the tariffs were "quite outrageous.”
"We’ll exhaust all avenues available to us through the (World Trade Organization),” he added.
Treasury Wine Estates shares tumbled more than 11% after the news, before trading was paused. The company said it is reviewing details of the provisional measures "as a matter of urgency” in order to update the market. Subsidiary Treasury Wine Estates Vintners is subject to duties as high as 169.3%, according to the China commerce ministry statement.
"We don’t believe there is any case to answer, so without seeing the details, obviously it’s disappointing,” said Tony Battaglene, chief executive of industry group Australian Grape and Wine, noting that he hadn’t seen the Chinese statement yet.
The two nations have been in a deadlock since 2018, when Canberra barred Huawei Technologies Co. from building its 5G network. Adding to grievances is Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s call for an inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus outbreak, a move that bruised China’s pride and unleashed a torrent of criticism that Australia is a puppet of the U.S.
"This latest hit by the Chinese government shows Beijing is determined to teach Australia a lesson that can reverberate globally,” said John Blaxland, a former intelligence officer who’s now a professor in international security at the Australian National University. "While it’s important for Australia not to cave into this pressure, it also shows how the nation’s traders have no option but to quickly re-calibrate and diversify their markets.”
Morrison sought this week to release some of the pressure, giving a speech that praised China for pulling its people out of poverty. Australia, he said, wants a "mutually beneficial” relationship and insisted his government isn’t siding with the U.S. to contain China. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing noted the "positive comments.”
"Beijing is saying that Scott Morrison’s speech this past week was simply not enough, and so China wants to keep the trade pressure on,” said James Laurenceson, director of the Australia-China Relations Institute at the University of Technology Sydney.
Since the ruling applies to wine shipped to China in containers of as much as two liters, Australian exporters could potentially circumvent the duties by shipping bulk wine to the country and have it bottled there, Laurenceson added, noting that he expected "a good proportion” of the product that the country used to send to China to be sold elsewhere within a year or two.
Australia is the world’s most China-dependent developed economy, and the trade pressure comes in the midst of its first recession in almost 30 years. China won’t be able to import products including coal, barley, copper ore and concentrate, sugar, timber, wine and lobster, people familiar with the situation said earlier this month.
Australian wine has already been piling up in the country after China announced two trade probes earlier this year. More than 50 vessels carrying more than $500 million (¥51.97 billion) in Australian coal have also been stranded near Chinese ports as the diplomatic spat cut into trade.
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