Lobster and beef on menu after China wine breakthrough

Australia will look at resolving barriers imposed by China on lobster and beef exports following a breakthrough deal on wine.

Trade Minister Don Farrell said the template used to get the Chinese to move on barley and wine couldn’t be used a third time around because they were different processes.

Australia has agreed to suspend its World Trade Organisation dispute while Beijing undertakes an “expedited review” of duties on wine exports worth $1.2 billion.

If the sanctions on wine are not removed at the end of the five-month review, Australia will take up the dispute again.

Lobster and beef relate to biosecurity licences while wine and barley were tariff-related issues.

“That needs to be dealt with separately,” Senator Farrell told reporters in Canberra on Monday.

“I’m working very closely with the agriculture minister to get some assurances to the Chinese government that we have top-quality products and that the Chinese should give us the licence.”

Agriculture Minister Murray Watt said he would continue to advocate to lift barriers against lobster and beef.

Senator Watt said it was still important Australian businesses continued to diversify their markets where they could.

“It is also important that we learn from this experience, that we can’t put all of our eggs in one basket when it comes to our trading partners,” he told reporters in Canberra.

The agriculture minister said China was a critical market for Australia’s wine industry and the review into the tariffs was a “huge relief”.

China lifted tariffs on Australian barley in August, after the government suspended its WTO dispute in exchange for a review.

Beijing slapped trade sanctions on $20 billion worth of Australian products at the height of a diplomatic feud in 2020.

The value of those trade impediments have since been reduced to about $1 billion.

Senator Farrell ruled out any deal in exchange for the wine tariff review.

The trade breakthrough came after the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet confirmed it had based its decision not to cancel the lease of the Port of Darwin, held by a Chinese company, on information from intelligence agencies.

The department on Friday announced it had finalised its review into the lease of the port by Chinese company Landbridge, finding moves to cancel the lease would be “not necessary”.

Landbridge signed a 99-year lease for the Port of Darwin in 2015 for more than $500 million, sparking fears of a national security risk.

The review was set up by Mr Albanese in August 2022.

Senior officials told a Senate estimates hearing on Monday the department had spoken with ASIO and Defence in forming its final verdict.

Bureaucrats told the hearing the department had spoken with six other government agencies as part of the review and looked at whether any circumstances with the lease had changed following previous investigations by the defence department.

The earlier defence reviews found there were no security grounds to overturn the lease.


Tess Ikonomou, Dominic Giannini and Andrew Brown
(Australian Associated Press)


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