Australia will take China before the World Trade Organisation (WTO) over Beijing's imposition of tariffs on Australian wine exports, it announced on June 19, in the latest sign of worsening tensions between the two countries.
The decision "to defend Australia's winemakers" comes six months after Australia lodged a separate protest at the WTO over tariffs on Australian barley and is in line with the government's "support for the rules-based trading system", it said in a statement.
It added, however, that "Australia remains open to engaging directly with China to resolve this issue".
China in November slapped tariffs of up to 218 per cent on Australian wines, which it said were being "dumped" into the Chinese market at subsidised prices. The move virtually closed what had been Australia's biggest overseas wine market, with sales falling from A$1.1 billion (US$840 million) to just A$20 million, according to official figures.
"We would love to be able to sit down and be able to resolve these disputes" directly with the Chinese, trade minister Dan Tehan said, but added that lower-level official contacts had failed to make progress.
He said while announcing the decision to lodge a formal dispute with the WTO: "We will use every other mechanism to try and resolve this dispute and other disputes that we have with the Chinese government."
Tehan acknowledged that the dispute process within the WTO was difficult and estimated it would take two to four years for any resolution.