Wine industry pundits are backing the Australian government’s firm stance on the Beijing-instigated trade dispute with the country, which has snared a range of export industries including beef, barley, coal, wine, cotton, and timber.
The CEO of Victorian-based Tahbilk Wines said Prime Minister Scott Morrison was right to stand firm on Australia’s sovereignty and not cave to the demands of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
“I think from a sovereignty perspective, the Prime Minister has got it right. We can’t be bullied—that is just not the Australian way—and there is no doubt that China is looking to exert more influence in the Asia and Pacific regions by a number of different methodologies,” Alister Purbrick told The Australian.
Just last week, Morrison was forced to respond to a dossier provided by the Chinese embassy in Canberra to Nine Entertainment Co. which owns The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.
The dossier outlined 14 grievances the Chinese regime had against the prime minister and government saying, “China is angry. If you make China the enemy, China will be the enemy.”
Morrison told the Today show, “We make our laws and our rules and pursue our relationships in our interests, and we stand up with other countries, whether it be on human rights issues or things that are occurring around the world including in China.”
“Now, if that is the source of tensions between Australia and China well, I can assure you Australia will continue to be ourselves,” he said.
China accounts for 37 percent of all Australian wine exports, making it the largest market for wine sellers.
In August, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce announced it was launching an investigation into anti-dumping allegations against Australian wine exporters to China.
The claims allege Australian winemakers were deliberately selling wine into the country at below-the-market prices (even below production cost), effectively “dumping” the product into China to drown out local winemakers.
Critics have pointed out that many Australian wines being sold into China are actually premium brands, including Penfolds and Jacob’s Creek.
Tahbilk’s Purbrick said four containers of his company’s wines were “locked up” at various ports in China and from Nov. 6 no Australian wine seller was able to pass customs.
“I don’t know what their endgame is because in this current world we all need to get on together and abide by a set of international rules, which we are happy with,” he said.
Greg Bondar, from Alternative Palate, a wine taster and tour operator, said calls for the Australian government to soften its stance on Beijing and increase engagement were misguided.
“My conversations with Australian winemakers reveal that there is a consensus that we must do whatever it takes to appease the Chinese wine import market. How dare the Australian government criticise the ‘Emperor’s new clothes’ seems to be the edict coming out of the mouths of many winemakers,” he told The Epoch Times.
“So, what credence is there in China having launched an investigation into whether Australian winemakers are flooding the country with cut-price plonk and drowning out local producers? Not much it seems,” he said.
Despite the challenge exporters currently faced, Bondar believed it was likely Beijing would soon “open the gates” to Australian wines.
He pointed to recently released Wine Australia figures which showed the value of exports to China increased by an annual 4 percent to $1.17 billion, despite a drop in the volume of wine being sent to the country.
“It will not be long before the Chinese consumer market starts knocking on the doors of Australian winemakers demanding our wines,” he said.