THE AUSTRALIAN government has formally taken the next step in taking its Chinese counterpart to the World Trade Organization over China's decision to implement tariffs on Australian barley due to alleged dumping.
Australian officials announced their intentions to take WTO action last December and following failed talks between the two countries, today it lodged an application to establish a formal dispute settlement panel.
Minister for Trade Dan Tehan said the next step followed dispute settlement consultations in late January between Australia and China.
"While there was constructive engagement on both sides, these consultations did not resolve our concerns," Mr Tehan said.
He said it was the natural progression in Australia's bid to clear its name over the allegations, which it has strenuously denied all along.
"This decision is an appropriate use of an established system to resolve our differences and is consistent with action Australia has previously taken to address concerns with measures imposed by other trading partners."
Opinion has been split in the grains world over the merits of taking WTO action.
Grain Growers, which has been supportive of the push, welcomed the news.
"This issue that has had a significant impact on Australian barley markets is outside of growers' control," said Grain Growers chairman Brett Hosking.
"It is critical that market access for Australian agriculture is a priority for the Australian government and that there is a strengthening of new and existing trade relationships," he said.
"Many of our growers have had a bumper harvest and we need market development opportunities to make the most out of the positive season."
Mr Tehan said the action reflected the government's commitment to defend the $2.3 billion per annum barley industry.
"The anti-dumping and countervailing duties imposed on Australian barley exports are not consistent with China's WTO obligations," he said.
In technical terms the move by the government is the next step in the procedural process of establishing a WTO dispute panel.
The neutral dispute panel, if established, would examine the details of China's anti-dumping claim and its rationale for imposing tariffs.
Recognising the complexities of WTO action, Grain Growers has prepared a resource for growers to keep them up to date on the timings and steps in this process.
"Our growers are getting on with the job of producing safe and nutritious grains," Mr Hosking said.
"We want to ensure though that they have the information they need about the WTO process because it will take time and it is complex"