Trade with China

8 December 2020

Senator GRIFF My question is to the Minister for Trade, Senator Birmingham. Minister, as you know, wine exports are a billion-dollar industry in South Australia and employ many thousands of people. China's new wine tariffs will devastate many businesses and people across the state. Already there are reports of jobs being lost and businesses cutting back in the new year. Just today, the ABC has reported China is adding even more restrictions on Australian beef. What support is the government putting in place to protect South Australian businesses and South Australian jobs from the Chinese tariffs?

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Finance, Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate):

I thank Senator Griff for his question. I know he has a strong interest—as do I, and I suspect this is an interest shared by all South Australian senators and by senators from all wine-producing states across Australia—in the concern we have around the imposition by China of a provision on antidumping measures of between 107 per cent and 212 per cent on Australian wine imported into China. Our government reiterates that we are not aware of any evidence that Australian wine exporters have dumped their product in the Chinese market. Indeed, to the contrary, our exporters have worked hard to establish themselves as reliable suppliers of premium wine to the China market. They've done so selling at, on average, the second-highest price point in the China market. China is, for Australian exports of wine, the highest-price-point large market, demonstrating that, far from dumping, we absolutely send premium product at premium prices into that market.

We are working closely, in response to these issues, with the Australian wine industry to respond, using the 10-day window provided by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce for a response to their findings, and to support the Australian industry in their response to these investigations. We also continue to work closely with industry to seek to pursue every other opportunity for Australian exporters to be able to tap into the rest of the world. Under our network of trade agreements that our government has negotiated, Australian exporters have opportunities in countries like Korea, Vietnam and the United States under previous FTAs, and in Japan as of next year, to be able to export wine duty free and tariff free into those markets. We want to support them to grow those markets, as we aspire to do in other markets around the world too.

Senator GRIFF :

Minister, job losses will be concentrated in a handful of South Australian regions such as the Barossa and McLaren Vale. The Commonwealth has historically established regional adjustment funds to assist displaced workers in specific areas. These funds stimulated local investment, offered retraining and provided employment services. Will the minister commit to supporting workers with a wine industry adjustment fund?

Senator BIRMINGHAM :

We provide a range of measures to support the wine industry in terms of their marketing and access to other sales opportunities around the world. We do that through the wine equalisation tax rebate, which sees—in the case of most small wine producers—them paying no net wine equalisation tax at all. We do that through funding and support provided to Wine Australia, which helps and enables exporters to be able to grow and reach into other markets around the world. Our commitment is certainly to continue to work closely with the Australian wine industry, which has shown a great resilience and adaptability over a period of decades. It's an industry that has seen surpluses and vine pulls as well as shortages and planting schemes, so it knows that these challenges come from time to time. I am confident that by standing alongside them we will be able to help them pivot to other markets and pursue those other opportunities.

Senator GRIFF :

I take it, Minister, based on your answer, that you won't commit to supporting a wine industry adjustment fund. We have now experienced a damaging series of trade disruptions across many sectors, with the government's approach primarily being reactive. Does the government accept the need for a proactive approach to building resilience—you did mention resilience previously, Minister—and, if so, what actions are you planning to take?

Senator BIRMINGHAM :

I thank Senator Griff. The resilience, in terms of opportunities for Australian exporters, comes from the range of opportunities and avenues that are available to them. When our government was elected, around 27 per cent or thereabouts of Australia's exports were covered by preferential tariff access into export markets. As a result of the work we have done—not just through the China FTA but by negotiating FTAs that give preferential access into markets like Japan, the Republic of Korea, Canada, Mexico, Vietnam, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Peru—these are a range of markets for which we have provided opportunities and avenues for Australian exporters to enjoy a comparative advantage. We stand alongside them through our Export Market Development Grants, through the work of our Austrade officers and through a range of other supports to help them grow their exports, which they have done across a range of markets and which we'll continue to support them to do.

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