Australia’s trade minister on Wednesday called for “greater clarity” from China over reports an embargo could hit a slew of industries by the end of the week and further escalate tensions.
Simon Birmingham said he had raised concerns with Chinese officials over several trade issues including increased testing of live rock lobsters that “came out of the blue”.
“There are lots of different rumours and stories at present and it is hard to quite define and discern which things are true, which things are inflated,” he told Sydney radio station 2GB.
Although China’s Ministry of Commerce had publicly denied the reports of a trade ban, more certainty was needed for Australian exporters, he added.
Australian winemakers were also bracing for possible tariffs — which would signal a spike in tensions that have already impacted beef, barley and coal exports.
China — Australia’s biggest trade partner — has threatened economic blowback on a range of Australian goods since Canberra called for an inquiry into the Covid-19 pandemic.
Beijing has already launched a litany of measures this year — including probes into alleged dumping of Australian wines, suspending beef imports, and issuing warnings to its citizens against travelling to Australia.
Treasury Wine Estates — producer of Penfolds — said in a statement that the China Alcoholic Drinks Association had called on the Chinese government to impose retrospective tariffs on some Australian wine.
“The request is associated with the ongoing anti-dumping investigation,” the winemaker said.
Treasury Wine said it was unclear whether the request would be accepted by the Chinese government or if tariffs would be applied retrospectively.
The winemaker also said it was aware of the “reports and speculation” around a larger embargo but had not received any notification from Chinese authorities at this stage.