COVID-19 cases top 4.7 million worldwide, China barley tariff appeal to WTO considered by Morrison government, Australia death toll at 100
The official reason for the tariffs is that Australia is dumping barley and damaging China’s domestic industry. Finding anyone who believes this is the sole motive behind the duties would be a challenge.
Rather, the move is seen as Beijing’s ongoing expression of displeasure over Canberra’s role in pushing for an international investigation into the origins of the novel coronavirus, and China’s initial handling of the outbreak that has turned into a pandemic, slamming economies around the world.
Beijing has already suspended imports from four of Australia’s largest meat processors, affecting about 20 per cent of the country’s beef exports to China, while its ambassador to Canberra has hinted at wider actions.
The action on barley fits a pattern of Chinese diplomacy, whereby countries that offend Beijing are punished as a lesson, and hopefully brow-beaten into submission.
Now that Australia’s call for an international probe of the coronavirus has been taken up by numerous other countries, Beijing may feel it has done enough, for now.
While Australia’s barley farmers will undoubtedly be impacted by the tariffs, and may not easily find alternative markets, it’s probably more important what China hasn’t done.
Barely represents a minuscule part of Australia’s overall trade with China, and is a commodity that Beijing can easily source from other suppliers.
Australia’s total exports to China were worth $194.6 billion in the 2017-18 fiscal year, according to official data, meaning barley is around 0.5 per cent of the total.
If China was determined to send a stronger message to Canberra it would no doubt target exports that were of more value, such as gas, coal, or iron oar.