• Transcript, E&OE
Topics: Review into COVID-19’s origins; Tariff on Australian barley into China.
19 May 2020

David Koch: Now, China has carried through with a threat to impose a tariff on Australian barley. It’s imposed an 80 per cent duty on imports of our grain after an 18-month investigation into claims Australia had dumped barley into China where it’s used to make beer and feed livestock. Australia will consider appealing again the decision which could cost Aussie farmers $600 million in lost sales.

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham joins us live from Adelaide. Minister, we’ll get to barley in just a moment. First, to the World Health Assembly, a good victory over the Chinese with the Chinese President backing a review even if he wants to wait until the pandemic is under control? You’d be feeling pretty chuffed?

Simon Birmingham: It was a wise and common sense decision by the World Health Assembly overnight, one that we welcome. It can give the world greater confidence that there will be a proper investigation into the origins and handling of COVID-19 so that we can all on the lessons from this, be better prepared for the future. It doesn’t matter which country you are talking about, they’ve faced loss of life, economic damage, and we have to make sure that we do learn all of those lessons and be better prepared in terms of how our institutions, like the World Health Organisation, and individual governments respond in the future.

David Koch: Well we led the charge on this. For a time, we were sort of out on our own. As a result, an 80 per cent tariff on our barley. Will you be appealing this to the World Trade Organisation?

Simon Birmingham: We absolutely reserve all our rights. The decision was made overnight in Beijing, we will thoroughly scrutinise and analyse the details of this. It’s been 18 months in the making in terms of the investigation that China has been undertaking. We continue to reject any idea that Australian farmers are subsidised or dump their product on global markets.

Our farmers are among the best, most competitive and productive in the world and we will defend their integrity as best we can. And of course, we will now work with them as well to find alternate markets and support them as this unfair duty is placed upon them.

David Koch: Are you getting any word that any of our other exports are being held up by administrative issues, sort of like our wine or our beef or dairy products?

Simon Birmingham: Outside of what we’ve seen, in terms of decisions around four meat processing plants and some of the usual ebbing and flowing we see in terms of commodity trades, I’m not getting any signals of that.

I hope and trust that we can continue to see, in total, the benefits of the two-way trade we have with China continue to flow for both countries. You know, this barley decision is bad for Australian farmers but it’s also bad for Chinese breweries and other customers of Australian barley in China who will end up paying more for product or getting substandard product from around the world. And so we hope that China will reconsider this at some point and we’ll continue to work with them where we can.

David Koch: Although the American barley farmers are chucking theirs in at a lower price now too. Minister, thanks for that.