China to review Australian wine tariffs as relations thaw

Exports of Australian wine to China fell to A$8.1m in 2023 from $1.1bn three years earlier, as tariffs effectively removed the country as a trading partner.

China will review its imposition of punitive tariffs on Australian wine imports as relations between the two countries continue to improve after several years of disagreement.

Prime minister Anthony Albanese said China would examine its tariff regime, ahead of a planned visit to the country, which will be the first time an Australian PM has visited China in more than seven years.

China will undertake an “expedited review” of the tariffs, Albanese said, in a process expected to last around five months. In return, Australia will suspend its appeal to the World Trade Organization while the review is undertaken, in the expectation that the tariffs will be lifted.

The move follows a similar agreement over China’s barley tariffs, which was reached in April 2023.

China’s Ministry of Commerce first imposed provisional tariffs of between 107.1 percent and 212.1 percent on Australian wine in August 2020, after accusing Australian producers of dumping wine on its market – a claim that was roundly rejected by the sector.

The government then made the tariffs permanent for five years from April 2021 with an upper limit of 218.4 percent.

This resulted in exports of Australian wine to mainland China falling to A$8.1 million in the year ending June 30, 2023 – just three years after wine exports to the country stood at A$1.1 billion.

Industry body Australian Grape & Wine welcomed news of the tariff review, with CEO Lee McLean describing it as a “very positive step” that could eventually see a resumption of wide-ranging wine exports to China.

“It has been a very difficult time for Australia’s grape growers and wine producers in recent years following the loss of China as our major trading partner, the global pandemic and various weather events, so this is very welcome news for grape growers and winemakers across the country,” he said.

Albanese will visit China on November 4-7, where he is expected to meet with president Xi Jinping and attend the China International Import Expo in Shanghai.