Australian trade minister considers taking China to WTO

Australian imports have been blocked at Chinese customs, with some business groups calling on the trade minister to take China to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Australia’s Trade Minister Simon Birmingham says he has not ruled out taking China to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) over blocked imports of Australian goods.

According to official Chinese media reports, Australian products, including sugar, barley, coal and lobster, will no longer be allowed into China.

But the Birmingham MP said some goods would still be able to pass through Chinese customs.

He told ABC Australia on Monday: “Some of the predictions about Chinese customs completely stopping imports of Australian products have not materialised.”

“But there are still some areas of concern, particularly the length of time for certain product-specific testing regimes that need to be expedited because these products are not storable.”

A number of business groups, including the Australian Industry Group, have called on the minister to take China to the WTO.

The Birmingham MP said: “We reserve our rights on that, particularly in the case about barley.”

“If there are concerns in this process that are appropriate to raise with the WTO, we will do so.”

Labor frontbencher Penny Wong said the government needed to speak up for Australia’s exporters on the initiative.

She told ABC Australia: “Whenever any country is unreasonably blocking our exports, we really must act, whether it’s through the WTO or a bilateral relationship or a broader relationship.”

“We are deeply concerned about the consequences for our exporters and the consequences for the Australian economy of the various trade issues that have occurred with China.”

Senator Wong Ying Yin Yin said it was not enough for the Government to simply tell exporters to look for another market.

She said: “We can’t leave our exporters to go it alone and the Government does need to ensure that it advocates and supports our export industry.”