Tensions escalate . . .
China is expected to announce 80 per cent tariffs on imports of barley from Australia. If imposed, the tariffs would end Australia’s barley exports to China with devastating consequences for the industry; Australia exports about 70 per cent of its barley to China. Both countries have been at odds over barley since the 2015 China-Australia FTA eliminated tariffs on the cereal, with Beijing starting an anti-dumping investigation in November 2018. But although the Australian Prime Minister has played down the dispute, experts have linked Beijing’s move to Australia’s recent call for an independent investigation into the causes of the initial outbreak of the novel coronavirus in China and the World Health Organization’s (WHO) response.
One’s loss, another’s gain . . .
Canberra has been called upon to take various diplomatic actions to ease the current tensions with Beijing. Some have suggested that Australia work with other ‘like-minded’ countries when dealing with China. Similar calls have been made for Canada to work with a coalition of countries to stand up to China’s ‘bullying’ tactics. But such a coalition may be difficult to implement: while it is in the world’s interest to understand the cause of the COVID-19 outbreak, not many countries have joined Australia’s call for an investigation in the WHO. And in the current situation, while Australia’s exporters could lose significantly if China moves ahead with the tariffs, other barley-exporting countries, such as Canada, could see their own exports increase.
Timing is everything . . .
China is expected to finalize its anti-dumping investigation on May 19, the day after the opening of the World Health Assembly (WHA), where Australia said it would push for an inquiry into the COVID-19 outbreak. Canada, Australia, and other countries are also involved in an American-led effort to allow Taiwan back into the WHO, a matter that is expected to be discussed at the Assembly. This will almost certainly infuriate China, which views Taiwan as a renegade province; China has already criticized New Zealand over its support for the initiative. It will be revealing to see how these dual issues unfold at the WHA.
- ABC News: Australian farmers caught in the middle
- Bloomberg: Australia concerned by reports of China barley tariffs
- The Globe and Mail: Canada should stand up to China, ex-Australia PM says