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Australian winemakers hope China is about to lift crushing tariffs

There are hopes that China’s heavy tariffs on Australian wine which devastated exports will be lifted by the end of March.

Feb 27, 2024, updated Feb 27, 2024
Treasury Wine Estates is preparing to relaunch its flagship Penfolds brand in China if punitive tariffs are lifted. Photo: TWE

Treasury Wine Estates is preparing to relaunch its flagship Penfolds brand in China if punitive tariffs are lifted. Photo: TWE

Federal Trade Minister Don Farrell met with his Chinese counterpart Wang Wentao on the sidelines of the World Trade Organisation’s ministerial conference in Abu Dhabi.

China slapped sanctions worth $20 billion on Australian products including wine, lobsters, barley and timber during the height of diplomatic tensions in 2020, after the then-coalition government called for an independent inquiry into the COVID-19 pandemic.

Beijing is now reviewing its Australian wine tariffs under a five-month process after Canberra agreed to suspend a dispute lodged with the WTO until March 31.

China lifted tariffs on barley in August last year through the same process, after Labor paused a WTO dispute in exchange for a review.

Farrell has met with his Chinese counterpart six times since May last year and at the latest meeting he pressed for the removal of all remaining sanctions, AAP understands.

China’s slapping punitive tariffs of more than 200 per cent in some instances on Australian wine left local wine exporters reeling.

China – previously Australia’s top wine export market – dropped to 14th spot within a year, with total exports dropping by 30 per cent or $860 million and leaving winemakers scrambling to find new markets.

The volume of wine sent overseas fell by 17 per cent to 619 million litres in 2021, the lowest volume shipped in a 12-month period since the year ended September 2004.

South Australia’s wine exports to China evaporated by $88 million and in the year to June 2023 were worth only $4.9 million.

The total value of Australian wine exports fell by 2 per cent in the 12 months to 31 December 2023, falling below $2 billion for the second year in a row.

But the recent thaw in diplomatic relations and hope of tariffs lifting prompted Treasury Wine Estates in October last year to begin preparing to relaunch its flagship Penfolds brand in China.

TWE, which also owns SA brands Wynns and Wolf Blass, said it would aim to regain its previous footprint.

– with AAP

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