GRAIN Producers Australia (GPA) chairman Andrew Weidemann is looking to the future for the Australian grains industry and has called on government to work with industry on a plan to diversify Australian agricultural commodity export markets.
Mr Weidemann was responding to the announcement by Trade Minister Simon Birmingham that Australia would be taking China to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) over its decision to impose anti-dumping and countervailing duties of 80.5 per cent against Australian barley.
“A WTO dispute isn’t a quick fix that will restore trade overnight – it is a process that may take a number of years,” Mr Weidemann said.
“While pursuing a resolution under the WTO, growers will make decisions regarding their on-farm rotations, including barley, which will reflect current global demand and trends.”
Mr Weidemann said the action to instigate a WTO action against China “wouldn’t help rebuild the relationship – we need bilateral discussions”.
He said GPA remained committed to diversification of Australian markets for grain and other agricultural commodity markets.
“To provide growers with confidence in the future, the Australian government needs to support alternative market development through trade and education, market intelligence and removal of non-tariff trade barriers include phytosanitary issues and quotas,” he said.
“The reliance on a single market for a significant portion, more than 65 per cent in the 2017/2018 season, of our barley was unsustainable and has been a wakeup call.”
The tariffs are expected to cost the Australian barley industry $2.5 billion over the next five years. The tariffs, imposed on 19 May 2020 will likely be removed in May 2025 if a resolution to the dispute is not agreed to.
The move to a WTO dispute reflects Australia’s support for a rules-based trading system and maintaining the integrity of the existing trading partnerships throughout the world.
Mr Weidemann said GPA had remained longstanding advocates for industry to undertake a dispute with full awareness of the process, risks, adverse reactions and costs associated with the WTO dispute.
Following several discussions with industry, DFAT and DAWE, including the Trade and Agriculture Ministers, the government decided to pursue action under the WTO.
“The WTO dispute is a long-running process, which we expect to take a number of years where China may not be a customer of Australia,” he said.
“GPA remains hopeful for a diplomatic resolution to restore trade between Australia and China.”