Interview with Jane McNaughton, ABC Radio Victorian Country Hour

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Barley WTO case with China, Australia-China relationship.
16 March 2021

Angus Verley: Trade Minister Dan Tehan says consultations between China and Australia have failed to resolve the issue, and the Government will now request a dispute panel be established by the World Trade Organization.

[Excerpt]

Dan Tehan: Well, there’s been construction engagement on both sides, and I thank the Chinese officials for that constructive engagement, but we haven’t been able to resolve our concerns, so therefore we want to go to the umpire that resolves these trade disputes, and that’s the World Trade Organization. And, so, we’ll go to the umpire and ask the umpire to decide in our favour if that’s what we can achieve, and that’s what we’re hoping to achieve.

Jane McNaughton: Now, this is obviously relating to a $600 million a year export to China. What’s this doing to our economy currently?

Tehan: Well, obviously, we want to make sure that we’re getting access to markets for our barley right across the globe, and we want to make sure we’re defending the interests of Australian barley producers, and that’s why we’re taking this next step and going to the World Trade Organization, because this is a sizable market. We have, I think, the best barley in the world, and we want to make sure that everyone plays by the rules when it comes to importing our barley.

McNaughton: So, why have you made this decision now?

Tehan: Because, obviously, we’ve been through a very constructive engagement with the Chinese, but we haven’t been able to resolve the matter through those consultations and, so, we’re now moving to the next step. This is just part of the normal process that you try to resolve these issues with the WTO. We’ve done the first consultative stage – that didn’t resolve the matter – so that’s now why we’re asking the WTO to establish a dispute settlement panel.

McNaughton: In your discussions with the barley industry, how have they been in the last few months?

Tehan: So, they understand why the Government is taking this course of action and they have been supportive. They understand that it, in the end, as a country, a trading nation like Australia, has to use the umpire to resolve these disputes. That’s why the umpire’s there, that’s why we support the dispute settlement process being run by the World Trade Organization and, can I thank the growers for the way that they’ve engaged with me since I’ve become Trade Minister, on this matter.

McNaughton: Did industry encourage you to make this move, Minister?

Tehan: Industry understands the process that we’re undertaking and I’ve had very good dialogue with the industry. They understand that once we started this process that we have to follow it through, and this is a next step, an important next step in that process and, once again, I thank them for the way that they’ve engaged with me, because they understand the importance of us using the World Trade Organization to resolve a dispute like this.

McNaughton: There’s been a lot of discussion around the reason that China put these measures in place. Do you think that it is possibly in relation to Australia wanting to investigate the originations of coronavirus?

Tehan: So, look, there are a number of issues which have been raised by China as to why or why they may not be taking the actions that they are. The key thing is, as the Australian Government has made very clear, is that we want to have constructive relations with China. Both our economies are very complementary. I’ve written to my counterpart, who was appointed Trade Minister at the same time I was, asking for us to have a constructive dialogue. That’s what we want from an Australian Government point of view, and we will continue to state that very clearly. And, my hope is that we will be able to get a constructive dialogue going sooner rather than later but, in the meantime, we’ll use a forum like the World Trade Organization to resolve these disputes.

[End of excerpt]

Verley: That was Trade Minister Dan Tehan speaking with Jane McNaughton.

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