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China files ‘unprecedented’ WTO complaint over Australian duties

Just days after Australia appealed to WTO over China's tariffs on Australian wine, China hit back with unprecedented complaints against Australian duties.

China has lodged “unprecedented” complaints against Australia to WTO as the two countries are locked in tit-for-tat trade war.

On Thursday, China complained to WTO about duties that Australia imposed years ago on Chinese railway wheels, wind towers and stainless steel sink products.

This is the first complaint China had brought against Australia to WTO over three products that Australia first imposed tariffs on as early as 2014, an unusual move, signaling that the relations between the two countries are fast deteriorating.

Before Australia appealed to WTO this year, China had looked to negotiations and diplomacy to resolve trade disputes, despite Australia having filed 80 anti-dumping and anti-subsidy complaints against China between 1995 and 2020. During the same period, China initiated only four investigations.

This comes just days after Australia had filed a complaint to the global trade body over China’s decision to impose up to 218% tariff on Australian wines.

“China has, in the past, only challenged measures initiated by larger players such as the US, so this represents a strategic shift. It’s clear [that] trade has become one of the main battlefields of the broader conflict,” Bryan Mercurio, an international trade law professor at Chinese University of Hong Kong, told SCMP.

Since China announced temporary tariffs last November on Australian wines, wine exports to China have dropped over 95% within months.

In March, China formally announced the final tariff of 218% on Australian wine for a period of five years, essentially corking Australia’s AU$1.15 billion wine exports to its biggest wine export market.

Earlier this year, Australian also lodged a complaint to WTO about China’s tariffs on Barley.

The two trade partners have been locked in tense conflicts starting from 2020. Australia called for an independent investigation into Covid-19 origin, which promoted China to protest by imposing tariffs on Australian wine and barley, as well as restricting imports of lobsters, beef and coal.

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