Last week’s meeting between Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Bali raised hopes for Australia’s wine industry that the thawing would signal an eventual lift of wine tariffs that have wiped out at least AU$2 billion worth of wine sales.
The meeting between Albanese and Xi on the sideline of G20 in Bali on Tuesday is the first high-level exchange between the two countries since relations deteriorated in 2020, which led to up to 218% anti-dumping tariffs on Australian wines to China.
Australian annual wine exports to China, its most lucrative export market, as a result plunged from AU$1.2 billion to just AU$200 million. Since the tariffs, it’s estimated that the Australian wine industry suffered AU$2 billion loss, according to Australia’s Agriculture Minister Murray Watt.
Lee McLean, the new chief executive of the national association for wine grape and wine producers, described the meeting as “very positive”, but warned producers there was “a long way to go”.
“Dialogue is great and we hope this sets the right conditions for further dialogue … opening opportunities to resolve the import duties issue,” he told AAP.
With China marketing being effectively shut, Australia has since tried to diversify its markets but the loss in the Chinese market has not been made up by other markets yet.
“While we’ve found new little opportunities, there was never anything that could replace a market of that size and scale, particularly at the luxury end,” Mitchell Taylor, who runs South Australia’s Taylors Wines told Bloomberg. Taylors Wine previously used to get about a fifth of its annual export revenue from China alone.
Australia’s biggest wine exporter to China Treasury Wine Estates suffered profit loss in its biggest market but it has decided to make a Chinese wine to bypass the hefty tariffs.
The meeting is hardly any proof that China is removing tariffs anytime soon, as it is effective at least until 2025, but trade from both sides applauded the bringing down of temperature and possibly a start of a normality between the two countries.
“This is a very positive step – the first such meeting between the two countries’ leaders since 2016,” Agriculture Minister Murray Watt told an audience of wine industry representatives in Adelaide on Wednesday.
“We have been consistent that we want these trade blockages removed.
“It is in both Australia and China’s interests.”