Farmers carry the brunt of a massive Chinese tariff on barley but the federal trade minister says China will be worse off if it doesn’t reverse the move.
Farmers carry the brunt of a massive Chinese tariff on barley but the federal trade minister says China will be worse off if it doesn’t reverse the move.

China to be biggest loser from barley spat as tensions rise

China will be the biggest loser from slapping an 80 per cent tax on Australian barley imports.

South Australian grain growers, who export about 1.5 million tonnes of barley each year, were among the hardest hit Australian farmers from Beijing's decision to raise import tariffs in May.

But China will be far worse off than Australia if it doesn't lower the tax, Trade Minister Simon Birmingham says.

Australian Trade Minister Simon Birmingham at the National Press Club in Canberra today. Picture: AAP Image/Lukas Coch
Australian Trade Minister Simon Birmingham at the National Press Club in Canberra today. Picture: AAP Image/Lukas Coch

"Australia's agricultural commodity forecaster, ABARES, has estimated the loss to Australia from China's decision to be $330 million, but the loss to China being in the order of $3.6 billion," Senator Birmingham said in a major trade speech in Canberra yesterday.

"That's because we produce some of the best malting barley in the world."

The tax would hit China's lucrative brewing industry who appreciated the "superiority of our malting barley".

China has targeted the beef sector and warned students and tourists not to come to Australia in recent weeks after slapping the tax on barley.

Beijing insists the moves are not connected to Australia's call for an investigation the coronavirus outbreak.

South Australian Senator Birmingham warned that China relied on Australian goods and services for its economic recovery. "We all win together or we all lose together," he told the National Press Club in Canberra.

He also expressed frustrations that China's trade minister was still refusing a phone call, saying Australia was "ready and willing to have that mature, sensible dialogue that grown-ups have even when you have differences of opinion".

The Government is seeking to get the barley decision reversed, but will take it to the World Trade Organisation if necessary.

As tensions ramp up, Foreign Minister Marise Payne on Tuesday accused China and Russia of spreading disinformation during coronavirus.

"It is troubling that some countries are using the pandemic to undermine liberal democracy and promote their own, more authoritarian models," she said.

Originally published as China to be biggest loser from barley tax spat as tensions rise



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