GRAINS industry peak body Grain Growers is urging the Federal Government to take China to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) over China's decision to impose harsh tariffs on Australian barley for alleged dumping into the Chinese market by Aussie exporters.
The Federal Government has been weighing up whether to take the matter to the WTO, a process that could take several years to be finalised.
Brett Hosking, Grain Growers chairman, said he supported taking the matter to an independent umpire, not least because it would change up the dynamic in the dispute.
"Previously, when we have been working with Chinese officials, the onus has been on us to prove there was no dumping, which we believe we have done, but the tariffs have still been put in place," Mr Hosking said.
"By taking the matter to the WTO it would be a case of China having to back up its claims."
Mr Hosking said it had been frustrating that China had implemented its decision but had not spoken to Australian officials about the rationale behind it.
"We'd love to hear more about how the decision was reached, there's certainly plenty of people that don't feel the decision was based purely on barley dumping but instead on broader issues so it would be good to get to the bottom of that," he said.
He acknowledged there was a school of thought that questioned further antagonising China, a powerful trade partner in the ag space, but said there were no other options to explore.
"At present we've got two choices, we can look to go through official channels between the two countries and it doesn't appear the Chinese officials are picking up the phone, or we can go to the WTO," he said.
"This is an important market for us and we are an important source of good quality malt barley for the Chinese malting and brewing industries, who have indicated they want to be able to buy our product so I think taking this matter to the WTO is a good move."
However, Mr Hosking cautioned it would not be a quick process.
"Taking this action is not going to mean there's a favourable finding and we're back in the Chinese market in a couple of months, it is a very long process that could take up to three years to be finalised, so we need to continue to focus on other new opportunities for our barley."
Federal trade minister Simon Birmingham sparked talks of potential WTO action in weekend interviews when discussing the recent Chinese tariffs slapped on Australian wine, the latest in a string of imposts placed on Australian ag exports to China.
He said Australia supported the system of the WTO acting as a third party umpire in trade disputes.
"We believe in a rules-based system to international trade," Mr Birmingham said.
"It's a crucial thing, we think, to give certainty to businesses as they go around trading relations about the world. If you back a rules-based system, that means you ought to call out when you think the rules have been broken and call in the independent umpire, so we certainly reserve all our rights to use the WTO processes," he said.