ABC Adelaide Breakfast with David Bevan and Sonya Feldhoff

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: China interim decision on removal of tariffs on Australian wine.

David Bevan, host: Don Farrell joins us now. He is the South Australian Senator and Minister for Trade, the Federal Minister for Trade, talking to us from Darwin today. Good morning, Minister Farrell.

Minister for Trade, Don Farrell: Good morning David and the team.

David Bevan: Don Farrell, can you take us right back to basics? What has China done regarding our wine exports?

Minister for Trade: Okay so, when China introduced bans on Australian wine by imposing a 220 per cent tariff, we instituted proceedings in the World Trade Organisation to get those bans, those limitations lifted. Last year, in an attempt to resolve the issue by discussion rather than disputation, we suspended our WTO application in exchange for a fast review of the tariffs by the Chinese Government. Yesterday or last night, the Chinese Government announced the first step in the process of that review, and that step is to remove all tariffs on Australian wine because they say they are no longer needed. They're giving all of the stakeholders an opportunity to make a comment on that and they will make a final and absolute determination within two weeks.

David Bevan: So, if this is an interim decision, does that mean that under that we can start selling stuff tomorrow or today, or is there more of a process still to go through? Let's not count our bottles of wine before they're actually sold, corked.

Minister for Trade: Look, I'm an optimist in this, David. I think this decision will be the final decision. They're just going through their processes. No, we can't sell tariff free wine into China today, but I'd be very hopeful that by the end of this month, so the end of March, that we will be able to do that. Obviously, it's been a terrible time for the Australian wine industry, but more particularly, it's been a terrible time for the South Australian wine industry. Although we produce about 50 per cent of Australia's wine, we produce 80 per cent of the premium wines. And, of course, those, along with the wines in the Riverlands, have been the groups that worst affected by these tariffs.

Sonya Feldhoff, host: Minister, this was imposed on Australia by China back in 2020. Are you saying it's only going to take weeks for us to ramp up the production, to be able to resume exports in that way to China?

Minister for Trade: Look, I think that's right. If we go back to what we did with barley, you might recall we had a similar ban on barley. We suspended our World Trade Organisation proceedings there. Within a week of that decision coming down to lift those tariffs, Viterra for instance, had barley on ships headed for China. So, I think we could very quickly resume trade.

David Bevan: Just finally, Don Farrell, can you pick up the phone and talk to your equivalent in China, because I know that wasn't the case for quite a while?

Minister for Trade: Yes, I've had eight discussions with him. And my most recent one two weeks ago, he's reiterated that he wants to come to South Australia and visit the premier wine region, the Clare Valley.

David Bevan: All right.

Sonya Feldhoff: Just a clarification on the text line, does it apply to both bottled and bulk wine? Someone's asking.

Minister for Trade: It applies to all wine, it's good news.

David Bevan: Well, Don Farrell, thank you very much for your time. Again, we'll be talking about this in the next hour, talking to growers and industry representatives. How quickly will they be able to take advantage of what looks like a significant thawing?

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