Australia and China's turbulent trade relations

Australia and China's turbulent trade relations

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The sheer scale of Chinese demand for Australian agricultural produce has been a bit win for the sector over the past decade but there have been plenty of hurdles on the trade front along the way.

The sheer scale of Chinese demand for Australian agricultural produce has been a bit win for the sector over the past decade but there have been plenty of hurdles on the trade front along the way.

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The recent Chinese decision to implement prohibitive tariffs on Australian barley is just the latest in a lengthy history of trade problems.

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The headlines from agricultural events and seminars over the past decade have generally reflected the lucrative opportunities presented by China but there has always been an element of risk in business with the Asian giant with frequent disruptions for either trade or phytosanitary reasons.

As is apparent below, the recent disruptions in the barley and red meat sectors are far from the first issues to come up in selling agricultural produce into the world's most populous nation.

Here, Farmonline takes a look at some of the major problems to arise over the past 15 years.

2009-10 Blackleg ruling leads to ban: Chinese officials made the ruling that the strain of the fungal disease blackleg, a major problem in canola, found in Australia, along with Canada, is different to the blackleg in China.

It then stopped buying Australian canola and did not resume trade until 2013.

Since then China has kept the pressure on to bring in stricter standards regarding the presence of blackleg which has been strongly resisted by both Australian and Canadian officials.

2013-14 Wheat and barley protocol issues:

The Chinese wheat and barley import protocols were up for review and were meant to be implemented by December 2014.

However, China threw in a curveball in the form of a new list of items that it would have zero tolerance for, including common weed seeds and crop pests, such as snails.

The push threatened the wheat and barley trade between the two countries, with Australia saying it could not sell to China under zero tolerance protocols.

Eventually a compromise was reached in February 2015 with Australia committing to an industry management plan and a deal to minimise pests of quarantine concern, but not to zero tolerance.

September 2015: Exporters banned. Over the years there have been many minor disputes and non-compliances notices handed out, always in barley, mainly due to the presence of snails, with industry insiders saying it often depended on the supply and demand situation and how much China needed Australian grain.

A suspension was handed down to two undisclosed companies for the presence of snails in barley in September 2015 and they were not officially reinstated until late 2017.

July 2017 - Beef exporters suspended. China suspends four Australian beef abattoirs from supplying its market, citing labelling issues. The issue takes six months to resolve

May 2020 - More meatworks angst. China again suspends four beef meatworks, citing technical issues. The issue, involving four northern processors, remains ongoing.

19 May 2020 - Barley tariffs officially imposed. Australia to be subject to 80pc tariffs on exports to China due to a Chinese investigation into alleged dumping by Australian exporters. The evidence for the decision is yet to be made public.

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