Australian PM ‘Hopes’ China’s Barley Probe Isn’t Retaliation for Virus Investigation

May 11, 2020 Updated: May 11, 2020

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has refuted claims that China’s proposed barley levy is a response from the communist regime for Australia’s efforts to gather international support for an investigation into the origins and handling of the CCP virus.

For the past 18 months, China has been investigating, through its version of an anti-dumping commission, whether Australia was dumping barley into its market in order to gain a larger market share in China. Australian farmers have accused China of intentionally dragging out the investigation for political reasons.

Because barley trade has “been an ongoing issue” between Australia and China, Morrison thinks “we have to be careful not to draw lines between” the levy and the virus inquiry, he said at a press conference in Canberra on May 11.

“We would expect and hope that this issue is determined on its merits,” said Morrison. “They haven’t raised it connected to any other issues, I’d be disappointed if it was.”

Morrison said the level of trade in barley dropped by over a billion dollars since China began its investigation.

Epoch Times Photo
Australia’s Minister of Trade, Tourism and Investment Simon Birmingham, Indonesia, March 4, 2019. (Willy Kurniawan/Reuters)

The Chinese regime’s investigation is scheduled to conclude next week, around the same time as the highly-anticipated World Health Assembly (starting May 18), where the European Union is expected to propose an investigation into the CCP virus origins.

The trade minister Simon Birmingham has maintained that the Australian government is confident that there is no clear evidence that Australia has been propping up the barley industry in order to distort trade with China.

Australia sent about $165 million worth of barley to China in 2018, so it’s “big business,” Birmingham told 5AA radio on May 11.

Considering the trade value with China and the current diplomatic tensions, Birmingham clarified that “we want to make sure that this is concluded based on the evidence rather than clouded by any other issues.”

Unlike the prime minister and trade minister, former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce is convinced the barley levy is politically motivated.

“This is a case of payback,” he told Seven Network’s Sunrise on May 11, adding that the investigation of the CCP virus, commonly known as coronavirus is justified.

Senator Sarah Henderson commented on Twitter saying, “China’s threats of economic coercion are extremely regrettable. Our reputation as an agricultural producer is 2nd to none. There is no anti-dumping issue & it’s not in anyone’s interests to impose a tariff on barley. We stand with our farmers.”

The Australian government has been calling for an inquiry into the origins and handling of the CCP virus outbreak for some weeks in an effort to better understand how it was able to spread from Wuhan, China, and therefore to better counter such pandemics in the future.

As such, health minister Greg Hunt said the government will back a European Union motion for an independent investigation that will be tabled on May 18.

“We support the EU motion which includes an independent investigation, regulatory work on wet markets and also the potential for independent inspection powers,” Hunt told Sky News on May 10.

But such an examination sparked a harsh response from the Chinese regime.

“We need to make sure that we hold firm in terms of our positions around Australia’s national interests, our national security, protect our sovereignty, ensure that we stand firm for Australian values and principles,” said Birmingham.