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30 November 2020

Independent Senator Rex Patrick has called on the Australian Government to urgently develop and announce a comprehensive programme of financing and marketing assistance to help South Australia’s wine industry deal with China’s politically-driven, punitive tariffs. 

“China’s announcement last week of massive interim tariffs is unquestionably a devastating blow to Australia’s wine industry which has already had to deal with major disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Senator Patrick said. 

“China’s actions come as no surprise. They have been anticipated for months and the Federal Government should be ready to announce a comprehensive response.”

“An Australian complaint to the World Trade Organisation is important, but it is only part of the picture and will take a long time to deliver any result. Our wine industry needs support now.” 

“We need substantive measures to assist Australian wine producers to absorb the impact of losing such an important market and diversify exports elsewhere.” 

“Trade Minister Simon Birmingham yesterday acknowledged that Australia will first have to await the finalisation of China’s internal investigation of bogus dumping claims before Australia can invoke the WTO’s dispute resolution processes.” 

“In the event that China confirms the imposition of its ‘interim’ tariffs, the WTO process will take at least a year, and probably much longer.”

“China can easily hold Australian wine exports hostage for at least two years while other wine producing nations and China’s domestic wine industry fill the gap. So much for Australia’s much vaunted free trade agreement with China.” 

“In these difficult circumstances, it is vital that the Federal Government provide a comprehensive package of assistance to the Australian wine industry so that productive capacity and expertise are not permanently lost.”

“In the course of the COVID-19 pandemic the Australian Government has paid, and continues to pay, billions in assistance to key industries. The Government should be prepared now to put forward a substantial package of financial assistance - whether loans or grants or other support - to help growers and winemakers transit through challenging circumstances.” 

“The Government should be especially prepared to support change that assists the reorientation of the Australian wine industry towards expanding other current markets and developing new opportunities.” 

The Government needs to fund a major international marketing effort to promote Australian wine sales overseas. Arguably the booming Chinese market of recent years has led to a slackening of marketing efforts elsewhere. This must now be remedied as a matter of urgency.”