China appeals to WTO over Australian duties on three products

China has made a complaint to the World Trade Organization (WTO) over Australia’s anti-dumping and anti-subsidy measures on three products, its commerce ministry said on Thursday.

Ties between the two nations are at their worst in decades, and Canberra has launched two appeals to the WTO amid what it describes as Beijing’s “economic coercion” against it.

In an apparent tit-for-tat measure, Gao Feng, a Chinese commerce ministry spokesman, said Beijing would now appeal against Australia’s duties on imports of railway wheels, wind towers and stainless steel sinks.

“(China) hopes that the Australian side will take concrete action to correct the wrong practices and avoid distortions to the trade of related products, so that trade will return to a normal track as soon as possible,” Gao said.

Dan Teehan, Australia’s Trade Minister, said Canberra had been taken by surprise by China’s appeal.

“The normal course of events would be that you would get some notification of their concerns about the measures we put in place through the relevant WTO committee or through officials raising it through bilateral channels,” he told reporters in the Australian capital.

“We haven’t seen any of that.”

Teehan also questioned why China had taken so long to lodge its appeal when Australia imposed two of the three duties in 2014 and 2015, with the third in 2019.

“Why have they have taken this action now?” he asked.

Australia imposed duties totalling 10.9% on Beijing’s wind towers, 17.4% on railway wheels and up to 60.2% on stainless steel sinks from China.

Canberra earlier this week said it would appeal to the WTO over China’s decision to impose tariffs on Australian wine, one of several commodities to be targeted by Beijing in recent months.

Relations with China, already rocky after Australia banned Huawei from its nascent 5G broadband networking in 2018, cooled further after Canberra in 2020 called for an independent investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, first reported in central China in 2019.

China responded by imposing tariffs on Australian commodities, including wine and barley and limited imports of Australian beef, coal and grapes.

Australia has already appealed to the WTO over China’s decision to impose tariffs on its barley imports.