The Australian-Chinese trade relationship continues to deteriorate, with Australian officials raising China’s steep barley tariffs at WTO Committee level. China has threatened to ban agricultural exports worth up to $6bn. When asked to elaborate on the proposed suspension at a press conference late last week, Chinese foreign ministry spokeperson Wang Wenbin called on the Australia government to “reflect” on how it handled its trade relationship with China in the past, accusing Australia of undermining cooperation and taking discriminatory measures. Trade Minister Simon Brimingham did not respond to the comments, maintaining he had not received confirmation of the bans. He repeated that China is still unwilling to have a dialogue about trade issues at the ministerial level.
Within China, food and wine importers are rumoured to have been told by the Chinese Commerce Ministry not to initiate further orders for Australian wine, cotton, lobster, timber and barley. China confirmed it had found pests in Australian timber imports and denied that import restrictions are designed to punish Australia politically. A foreign ministry spokesperson in China said the ministry hoped Australia would do more things “conducive to mutual trust” to bring bilateral relations back to the right track as early as possible.