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Australian wineries in limbo as import ban looms

Uncertainty reigns in Australia as China is apparently moving to suspend imports of several Australian goods, including wine, but there has been no official sign-off from Beijing.

Seven Australian products wine, lobsters, sugar, copper ore and concentrate, barley, timber and coal with a combined value of AU$5-6 million seem to be under threat of being slapped with suspensions by Beijing.

Rumours began swirling last week that the seven products would be suspended from Friday (6 November). The situation is a little confused, however, as while the news was reported in the Communist Party tabloid The Global Times last week, the government itself has neither officially confirmed or denied the measures.

Some Australian producers were reported by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation as suspending exports themselves towards the end of last week as rumours of an official suspension spread. In addition to no official word from the Chinese government, major ports in China told the broadcaster that they had heard nothing about blocking imports of Australian goods either.

Australia’s trade minister, Simon Birmingham, has criticised Beijing for its, “continued uncertain and inconsistent messages”, while Dr Jeffrey Wilson, a trade expert at the Perth USAsia Centre said this was “psychological war” not a trade war and all part of China’s “grey zone” diplomacy methods.

The relationship between the two countries has broken down very quickly over the past few years and really spiralled in 2020, especially after Australia’s government led calls for an investigation of China’s role in the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

China has hit back economically, placing many key Australian imports, including wine, under investigation for supposed “dumping” with the prospect of heavy tariffs being imposed as a result.

Many had expected the investigation, which began in August, to last at least into next year but events have escalated rapidly since then.

READ MORE: Australian wineries face ‘incredibly intrusive’ Chinese questioning

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