China said on Thursday that it has filed a lawsuit with the World Trade Organization challenging anti-dumping measures on a number of Australian goods, further escalating tensions between the two countries.
The suit – in relation to Chinese exports of train wheels, wind turbines and stainless-steel sinks – comes a week after Canberra challenged Beijing’s crippling tariffs on Australian wine exports.
It aims to “protect the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies”, Chinese commerce ministry spokesman Gao Feng said at a regular briefing on Thursday.
“We expect Australia to take concrete action to correct its unfair practices, avoid distortions in the trade of related products, and bring such trade back to normal track as soon as possible.”
Australia has imposed tariffs on Chinese-made train wheels and wind turbines since 2019.
Trade Minister Dan Tehan told reporters in Canberra that Australia “will vigorously defend the duties we have imposed.”
He added that although Canberra wanted a “constructive engagement with the Chinese government”, the measures were implemented “after rigorous analysis”.
“Why they took this action now is a question you have to ask China,” he said.
China in November announced tariffs of up to 218% on Australian wines, which it said were “dumping” on subsidized prices in the Chinese market.
The action nearly shut down Australia’s largest foreign wine market, with sales dropping from US$1.1 billion (US$840 million) to just US$20 million, according to official figures.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has warned that his government will respond forcefully to countries trying to use “economic coercion” against Australia.
The decision last week “to protect Australia’s winners” came six months after Canberra filed a separate protest at the WTO over tariffs on Australia’s barley, whose exports to China amount to about US$1 billion a year.
Beijing has imposed tough economic sanctions on a range of Australian products in recent months, from high tariffs to disruptive practices in several agricultural sectors and tourism.
On Monday, Gao said that China “opposes the abuse of trade remedial measures, which not only harm the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies, but also the seriousness and authority of WTO regulations.” “
But the tit-for-tat measures are widely seen in Canberra as punishment for pushing back against Beijing’s operations to exert influence in Australia, rejecting Chinese investment in sensitive sectors and publicly An inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic is called for.
A summit of the G-7 advanced economies earlier this month called for Australia’s tough stance against China’s trade practices and its more assertive stance globally.
The leaders’ meeting ended with the announcement of US-led plans to counter China’s trillion-dollar “Belt and Road Initiative”, a recognition of efforts to increase economic influence around the world.