Prime Morrison isn’t very happy about China’s plan to stamp a stiff 80 percent tariff on imports of Aussie barley, which Beijing says is due to an investigation that found that Canberra is dumping the grain into China at super-low prices. China is also claiming that Australian growers enjoy a competitive advantage thanks to government subsidies.
Canberra denies both charges, with trade minister Simon Birmingham saying he rejects “that there is a prima facie case, let alone a conclusive case, to find dumping by or subsidy of Australian producers.”
From certain vantage points, the tariff looks like possible retaliation against Australia for having urged an independent investigation into the origins and early handling of the coronavirus outbreak, which began late last year in the Chinese city of Wuhan. Beijing bridled at the suggestion, viewing it as a hostile maneuver.
Shortly after Canberra called for the independent probe, Chinese Ambassador Cheng Jingye mused that perhaps Chinese would think twice about visiting Australia on holiday, or sending their children over to study, or even consuming food and drink imported from Australia.
“The Chinese public is frustrated, dismayed and disappointed with what you are doing now,” Jingye said. “If the mood is going from bad to worse, people would think why we should go to such a country while it’s not so friendly to China.”
“The tourists may have second thoughts,” he continued. “Maybe the parents of the students would also think whether this place, which they find is not so friendly, even hostile, is the best place to send their kids to. So it’s up to the public, the people to decide. And also, maybe the ordinary people will think why they should drink Australian wine or eat Australian beef?”
So of course the tariff is retaliatory—China is learning from its trade war with Morrison’s playmate, King Donald of Washington. But Morrison is playing dumb all the same, saying such retribution would make him feel “extremely disappointed.”
“They certainly haven’t raised it as connected to other issues. I would be extremely disappointed if it was,” he said, adding that trade is “incredibly important and beneficial for both countries.”
Trade? Important? You don’t say … Even online primary school tutors can take it for granted that their pupils understand that point.
Morrison also pointed out that concerns about “dumping” are legitimate and reminded reporters that Australia has investigated Chinese imports for the same reason.
“Not all those decisions [to investigate Chinese imports] were well received,” he said. “They’ve been made on the merits and I would hope and expect China to do the same thing.”
China is supposed to decide whether to implement the tariff sometime next week. If they go through with it, Canberra may appeal to the World Trade Organisation to settle the dispute.