China considers imposing penalties on Australian imports after breach of rules

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The fault in the Australian goods fuels fresh concerns that Beijing may add further restrictions on Australian exports. Chinese commerce minister Zhong Shan on Monday echoed claims that Beijing’s investigation into the disposal of Australian barley was accurate and abided by the terms of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA).

Beijing placed a 80.5 percent levy on all Australian barley imports last week and prohibited beef shipments from four Australian producers.

The move follows what it said was a failure of those products to meet import labelling and certification standards over an extended period.

The procedure has sparked concerns in Australia that more fees will be implemented.

Chinese customs figures from 2019, obtained by the South China Morning Post, show that more Australian goods have failed to comply with he rules.

China’s Customs Administration denounced pest infestations in large quantities of oat and oatmeal exports by CBH Group, Australia’s largest grain exporter, last year.

Two batches of oatmeal exports in May weighing more than 500,000kg each, a 540,000kg shipment of oats in June, and a 570,000kg shipment of oats in September were all banned from entering the country when they arrived at the cities of Shenzhen and Shantou.

One delivery of oatmeal that was corrupt, weighing nearly 3,000kg, from Australian cereal specialist Sanitarium was stopped from entering Nanjing in January 2019.

A further small 50kg delivery of instant oatmeal from Quaker Oats Australia was banned at Huangpu port in Shanghai in January after it was found to be corrupt.

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Chinese officials are said to be considering a new list of potential exports including wine, dairy, seafood, oatmeal and fruit to undergo more stringent quality controls, anti-dumping tests, tariffs or customs delays, Bloomberg reported.

China’s foreign ministry has declined comment on the reported document.

However, spokesman Zhao Lijian said last week that he hoped Australia would comply with China to establish “actions that are conducive to bilateral relations and mutual trust.”

China’s plans to add export bans and tariffs to on Australian beef and barley have raised suspicions Beijing is trying to chastise Australia for calling for an independent international inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Data obtained by the Post revealed that the three beef exporting firms that disobeyed import laws – Kilcoy Pastoral, JBS and Northern Cooperative Meat Company – had previous import labelling and certification offences in 2017, which ended up in a four-month restriction at that time.

Trade issues with China are still a threat to Australia, as it is the world’s most China-dependent developed economy.

Australian trade minister Simon Birmingham said China’s recent plans could damage both countries if not reassessed.

“China’s been a country with which we’ve seen strong trade growth, especially in recent years, but so too are we seeing with many others,” trade minister Simon Birmingham told the Queensland Rural Press Club on Thursday.

“And we should also be mindful that the trade benefits that flow between Australia and China are mutual benefits.”

Mr Birmingham said the ChAFTA had powered much of China’s industrial competency in recent years, helping remove hundreds of millions of people from poverty in China and Southeast Asia.

Speaking at his press conference on Monday, Mr Zhong said Australian disposal had “severely hurt” China’s barley industry.

“China is cautious and restrained in taking trade remedy measures,” the foreign ministry spokesman said.

“Since China and Australia established diplomatic relations, China has conducted only one trade investigation against Australia, while Australia has launched 100 investigations against China during the same period.”

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