Government to meet with wine peak body to find China solution

1 Dec 2020

Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie has welcomed the Government’s commitment to meet with the head of the Australian grape and wine industry to find new ways to support wine producers grappling with the escalating trade war with China.

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud spoke of tomorrow’s meeting with Australian Grape and Wine Chairman Tony Battaglene and Trade Minister Senator Simon Birmingham after Rebekha raised the issue of China tariffs during Question Time.

“South Australia produces half of the nation's wine and 80 per cent of the premium wine that’s exported (and) wine export to China is worth $1.2 billion annually,” the Centre Alliance Agriculture and Rural Affairs Spokesperson told the Minister.

“Given the spectacular collapse of the Australia to China wine market, what immediate support will the Government provide to our wine makers, particularly mine in Mayo?”

In reply, the Minister said the Government was working with the wine industry to lodge an appeal within the next 10 days with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) against the new Chinese “tariffs”.

Minister Littleproud said the Government was also accelerating branding in new markets and meeting with Mr Battaglene to come up with new measures to help the wine industry.

“We will vigorously defend the industry with respect to that (Chinese allegation) around the dumping of wine, which is the second highest point price wine in China,” Minister Littleproud said.

“… even before this imposition of what is a tariff on our wine, we've already been trying to open up other markets through our Agricultural Counsellors, who we now have 22 through the free trade agreements that we put in place, and that's particularly in emerging markets in Asean countries also in the US and Canada.

“So we'll continue to work in those emerging markets and tomorrow the Trade Minister and I are meeting with Tony Battaglene, who is the chairman of Australian Grape and Wine and we'll work with him as the peak body leader of his industry to work through other support mechanisms that the Government can help.

“Obviously we will work through that in a constructive way within the parameters of the WTO.

“We are fair trading nation. We are a rules-based trading nation. We will stay within that, but we will continue to work with them and explore new markets as quickly as we can and making investments in accelerating the brand Australia wine right around the world.”

This week Chinese authorities announced new trade sanctions on Australian wine imports ranging from 107.1 per cent to 212.1 per cent, following allegations Australia was flooding their domestic market with cheap wine. The allegations are strenuously denied by Australian producers.

The Chinese Government has also placed tariffs on Australian barley exports and raised customs barriers with Australian seafood, lobster, timber and coal.

“Wine is a significant industry for Australia, South Australia and my electorate where we have six wine producing regions and we export some of our best wine to China,” Rebekha said.

“While trade agreements with the UK, EU and developing markets in the Asia region may provide opportunities in the future, those negotiations are yet to be finalised and our growers need urgent immediate support to ensure the long-term viability of our wine industry.

“We have some small to medium winemakers that produce top quality wines that could be at serious risk of going under if the big producers turn their attention back to the domestic market.

“We do need to back our industry internationally and appeal to the independent umpire at the WTO, but this is a long process.

“In the meantime, the Government needs to come up with a comprehensive plan that assists our growers immediately and supports them into the future so I welcome the discussions with the head of Australian Wine and Grape and encourage further discussions with stakeholders.”

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