Interview with Stacey Lee, Nikolai Beilharz and David Bevan, ABC Adelaide

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Australia-China relations, wine and barley trade blockages, support for Ukraine.

Stacey Lee: It's 14 minutes to 9 on ABC Radio Adelaide, Nikolai, Stacey and David with you for breakfast. Also with you, the Senator Don Farrell in the studio. Good morning, Senator.

Minister for Trade: Good morning, team.

Stacey Lee: And Minister For Trade and Tourism.

David Bevan: Don Farrell, how soon can you get things back to normal with China?

Minister for Trade: We're working as hard as we can David, and the Foreign Minister, Penny Wong, has been working especially hard, flying up to Beijing just before Christmas, to make sure that things keep moving in the right direction. We want to stabilise our relationship with China and what that means is all of those trade blockages, which you referred to earlier, that have been imposed over the last couple of years, we want them removed. I'm doing my level best to have discussions with the Chinese Government about how we can best progress all of those current trade blockages.

David Bevan: Now, it's not just wine, but wine is an obvious example of those trade blockages. Now, you've made it clear you don't want to have to litigate this with the World Trade Organisation. But what's the deadline for proceedings?

You'll go that way if you have to, but you don't want to, but I imagine you've got to lodge things with WTO, and that clock would be ticking. So how long have you got before that starts, something you don't want to do?

Minister for Trade: David, that's well and truly started. The previous government lodged those applications.

David Bevan: But there must be hearings and things like that, where it starts to get serious?

Minister for Trade: Yes that's correct. So only two of the products are the subject of WTO applications; one is barley, and one is wine, and both of them have been processed through the WTO, because both of them involved are what we believe were unfair tariffs on our products. Just to take wine, for example, we went from zero tariff on our Australian wine, which was worth about $1 billion worth of trade each year, to a 220 per cent tariff on our wine.

Stacey Lee: And you well, you know about that, because you sell wine, or you've got a winery, or some ‑‑

Minister for Trade: I have a little vineyard in the Clare Valley. We’re not Penfolds or one of those, but, no, we have a lovely little vineyard in Sevenhill, and ‑‑

Stacey Lee: Were you impacted by the tariffs?

Minister for Trade: No, we don't export much further than Adelaide to be honest with you.

David Bevan: Okay, so there's barley and wine, there's proceedings before the WTO, but how long before that gets to the pointy end? I'm trying to work out what the timetable here is, because you'd like to sort it out in a friendly way.

Minister for Trade: Yes, and I've made it very clear right from the day I took over this job seven months ago that we would much prefer to sort out our disagreements with China through discussion and not having to take this arbitration through the World Trade Organisation.

All of the submissions have now been completed at the World Trade Organisation. We've made all of our submissions; China has made all of their submissions. The next step in the process is an initial determination by the WTO. I would expect that would occur some time in the first quarter of this year, both in respect of wine and to barley, and I would be confident that based on the terrific work that our officials have done on this case, that we will be successful in both of those applications.

But, again, I say, particularly to the Chinese Government, it's much better if we sort these things out by discussion, and we certainly haven't ruled out further discussions, but we're not going to withdraw our applications until such time as we get a clear indication from the Chinese ‑‑

David Bevan: But you'd like to be able to go to the WTO in March and say, "It's okay, we've sorted it out"?

Minister for Trade: That would be a perfect day, and it would be a great day for the Australian wine industry and the Australian barley industry.

Nikokai Beilharz: Well on that note of the sometimes difficult relationship between Australia and China, how do you see the difference between carrot and stick; what's your approach?

Minister for Trade: Well, we want to normalise our relationship. I mean we have different political systems; they're an autocracy, we're a democracy. Where we can work together - and I think it's important to put this in perspective - China continues to be our largest trading partner. We made pretty well near record sales to China worth $300 billion in the last 12 months.

Nikokai Beilharz: So, you don't want to lose that?

Minister for Trade: So just to put it in perspective, that's more than Japan, Korea, the United States, the United Kingdom and France put together. That's how big our trade is. But having said that, the value of those four products which they've banded banned, in particular barley, wine, crayfish and ‑‑

Stacey Lee: Barley?

Minister for Trade: No, barley, wine, crayfish and meat ‑ I've got them all there ‑ is $20 billion. Is it's still a very substantial amount of money, and to put that into perspective, that's more than our total trade between France and the United Kingdom.

David Bevan: Now, before you leave us, Ukraine. You've made it quite clear, standing shoulder to shoulder with the Ukrainian Ambassador, indeed you've had him up to Clare ‑‑

Minister for Trade: Last weekend.

David Bevan: Yes, so this is a cause that you personally feel very committed to. The Australian Government has announced today that Australian troops will deploy to train Ukrainian forces, but to be quite clear, they're not going to step foot in Ukraine, are they?

Minister for Trade: No, no. The training will take place in the United Kingdom. The UK, to their credit, have been really on the front foot in terms of providing support and training to the Ukraine Army. We intend to do the same. It's not a large contingent, but I think it's a significant one, and the significance is, of course, that we, as you've just said, stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of the Ukraine. They've got a terrible fight on their hands; I've had the benefit of a first‑hand account from the Ambassador last weekend, he'd been in Kyiv for two weeks.

Stacey Lee: Can I ask your response to the Russian flag being flown at the Australian Open in Melbourne yesterday?

Minister for Trade: I'm very pleased that the Australian Open officials withdrew those flags. I think in the circumstances nobody wants to be giving any succour to either Russia or Belarus, and certainly not in the Australian setting.

David Bevan: Do we export to Russia?

Minister for Trade: Well, just looking at Ukraine, we have removed all the tariffs that Ukraine products used to pay when they come to Australia. We don't have a great deal of trade with Ukraine, and we have banned, in accordance with the decisions of the United Nations, we've banned the export of certain products to Russia.

Stacey Lee: Do you know what products?

Minister for Trade: I couldn't tell you off the top of my head.

David Bevan: But that's been contracted.

Minister for Trade: Yeah.

David Bevan: Just before you go, are you looking at sending more material, as in another load of load of Bushmasters off to Ukraine; are we going to send more stuff?

Minister for Trade: Ukraine regularly makes requests for additional military material, and we give all of those requests consideration, and you know, as I've said, we're very much standing shoulder to shoulder with the people of Ukraine.

Stacey Lee: Okay, Minister, thank you for your time.

Minister for Trade: Thanks, team.

Stacey Lee: The Minister for Tourism and Trade, Don Farrell.

Media enquiries

  • Minister's office: 02 6277 7420
  • DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555