Australia Considers WTO Action Against Chinese Regime

November 9, 2020 Updated: November 12, 2020

Federal Trade Minister Simon Birmingham has not ruled out taking China to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to dispute the economic bullying tactics it is using against some Australian export industries.

Birmingham told ABC on Nov. 9 that the Morrison government was considering using the WTO as a way to address the ongoing trade issues that have been instigated by the CCP.

“We’ve certainly reserved our right there, particularly in relation to the instance of barley,” Birmingham said.  “If we have other concerns along the journey that are appropriate to raise through the WTO, we will do so.”

His comments come after reports surfaced last week that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) might impose trade bans from Nov. 6.

Opposition Labor senator, and shadow foreign affairs minister, Penny Wong shared Birmingham’s view.

Wong told ABC News Breakfast on Nov. 9 that she believes Australia needed to stand up to any country that blocks its exports.

“Whenever any country unreasonably blocks our exports, we do have to act, whether that’s through the WTO or bilaterally or more broadly,” Wong said.

She also called on the government to support Australian exporters to find other markets.

“We’re deeply concerned about the consequences for our exporters and the consequences for Australia’s economy about the sorts of trade problems we are seeing with China,” Wong said. “We can’t just leave our exporters to go it alone.”

Last week Birmingham reminded businesses of Australia’s other trade pacts with Japan, South Korea, Canada, Mexico, Vietnam, Indonesia; as well as upcoming opportunities with the European Union, the UK, and India.

“I would expect that many businesses would be looking at those other opportunities that our government has created through our other trade deals and looking as to how they can explore further business linkages with those countries as well,” Birmingham said.

Through Austrade, Australia currently offers exporters financial assistance in the form of the Export Market Development Grants (EMDG) scheme to help them establish themselves in overseas markets.

In April, the federal government announced that it would increase funding to the EMDG by $49.8 million, allowing exporters and tourism businesses to acquire additional reimbursements for costs incurred in marketing their products and services around the world.

This increase in funding supplemented the $60 million the federal government already committed to the AMDG that brought its funding to its highest level in more than 20 years.

It was earlier reported that the CCP could place sweeping bans on seven export products, including wine, but this has not happened.

That said, the trade minister did note that there were still difficulties around lobster exports due to the length of time taken by CCP authorities for its new testing regime.

Other products were seeing movement from the ports and Birmingham said Australia would “keep a close and watchful eye” on it.

On Nov. 6, CCP mouthpiece China Daily published an article that stated the totalitarian communist regime was unhappy with Australia’s foreign interference laws and naval exercises.

Australia recently completed the Malabar military exercises in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea along with the navies of regional partners India, Japan, and the United States.

It was the first time in 13 years that Australia had participated in the exercises and signalled the first military exercises taken by Quad members.

The CCP regards the Quad (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue) as the Pacific equivalent of NATO, and is not happy about it. It was initiated by former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe with a goal to establish an arc of democracy around the pacific.