China probe targets Australian wine imports

Australian wine seen among others in a Beijing store. The latest anti-dumping probe will likely worsen tensions with Australia. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Australian wine seen among others in a Beijing store. The latest anti-dumping probe will likely worsen tensions with Australia. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BEIJING • China has begun an anti-dumping probe into imports of Australian wine, a move that knocked a fifth off the market value of Australia's biggest winemaker and is likely to worsen tension between the nations.

The investigation by China's commerce ministry will look at imports of wine from Australia in containers of two litres or less last year, the ministry said yesterday in a statement, and examine any damage to the domestic wine industry from 2015 to 2019.

The Chinese Alcoholic Drinks Association requested the inquiry, asking the regulator to look into 10 Australian wine producers, including Treasury Wine Estates, the maker of Penfolds, and Accolade wines.

Shares of Treasury, the world's biggest standalone winemaker, fell up to 20 per cent on worries at the prospect of an import tax on Australian wine. In a statement, the company said it remained committed to China as a "priority market".

The investigation comes against a backdrop of rising tension between the two countries after Canberra called for an international inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus.

China is the top market for Australian wine exports and is also Australia's largest trading partner, with two-way trade worth A$235 billion (S$232 billion) last year.

China will carry out the investigation in a "fair and just way, according to the law", foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said, rejecting suggestions that it was politically motivated.

Beijing recently imposed dumping tariffs on Australian barley, suspended some beef imports and told Chinese students and tourists it was not safe to travel to Australia because of accusations of racism.

Australia's Trade Minister Simon Birmingham called the investigation "very disappointing and perplexing", and said China was also considering a request to investigate countervailing duties, an import tax imposed to prevent dumping or counter export subsidies.

He told reporters he had not spoken with his Chinese counterpart or other senior government officials since May, when he requested talks in the light of the barley tariff.

REUTERS

 
 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 19, 2020, with the headline 'China probe targets Australian wine imports'. Print Edition | Subscribe