CHINA may be deemed too risky to do business with by many agricultural industries, Trade Minister Simon Birmingham warned, as he revealed his Chinese counterpart would not return his calls despite growing tensions over beef and barley exports.
China is due to make a decision on whether to impose an 80 per cent import tariff on Australia barley on Tuesday as part of a dumping investigation, and it has already blocked imports from four major meatworks for "technical breaches".
Mr Birmingham said businesses may now look to other growing south-east Asian markets, such as Indonesia and Vietnam, because of the unpredictable nature of the Chinese government's trade policy.
"I would expect that given the regulatory actions of the Chinese authorities over the past week some businesses would be reassessing their risk versus reward profile," Mr Birmingham said.
"When unexpected regulatory disruptions occur, it changes the commercial risk assessment that a business would logically undertake.
"Businesses and farmers always need to balance the reward and lucrative opportunities that trading in one place presents with the risks of over reliance on a single customer."
Many believe China's trade actions have been in retaliation of Australia's call for an independent investigation into the origin of COVID-19, after thinly-veiled threats from the Chinese ambassador.
Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said although the trade ministers weren't talking, there was plenty of work going on in the background to resolve the issues.
"The Department of Agriculture personnel in China are telling me that it's been very constructive with Chinese officials on the ground," Mr Littleproud said.
"It's very calm, very methodical working through the questions they have and giving them the answers they're looking for. Now, whether that gets lost in the translation, we'll find out [on Tuesday]."
Mr Littleproud said Australia had not ruled out going to the World Trade Organisation to act as an independent umpire if the government believes China is acting unfairly.
"We'll be very strong that we'll stand up to any trading partner where we believe they haven't understood our argument and we'll take it to an umpire for them to determine," he said.
"We've done that with trading partners like Canada with wine, and India with sugar."
Labor agriculture spokesperson Joel Fitzgibbon said the Coalition had mismanaged its relationship with China and the nation was now paying the price.
"This relationship has been deteriorating for the last three years, not just since COVID emerged," Mr Fitzgibbon said.
"China is more than one-third of our exports and you're going to be pretty hard-pressed to find new export markets that fill that void.
"So we have to get this relationship right and it's incumbent upon the government to do so."