China‘s ban on Australian beef imports has been described as a ‘bastard act’ by a federal MP.
China suspended imports from four major beef suppliers just weeks after Beijing’s ambassador warned consumers would boycott Australia if it continued to push for an inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus outbreak.
The ban affects one third of Australia’s meat exports worth an annual $1billion to China, which is Australia’s biggest trading partner and the world’s second biggest economy.
‘It’s a bastard act,’ Liberal-Nationals backbencher George Christensen told news.com.au.
‘It’s just wrong. China has just gone into full, bullying, threatening, coercion mode.’
China has suspended imports from four major beef supplier, which affects one third of Australia’s meat exports to China. Pictured is Melbourne butcher George Vourvahakis hard at work at his Yarraville store on Tuesday
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters in Beijing the ban was due to quarantine violations.
‘Chinese customs has continuously found that multiple batches of beef products exported to China by individual Australian companies have violated the inspection and quarantine requirements,’ he told reporters on Tuesday night.
Zhao warned Australia against ‘using the epidemic to engage in political manipulation’.
But he denied any connection between the beef ban and a potential inquiry into how coronavirus started.
‘They are two different things,’ Zhao insisted.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters the beef ban is due to quarantine violations and isn’t related to Australia’s calls for an inquiry into coronavirus
Three of the affected meat suppliers are from Queensland while the other is from New South Wales.
Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Christensen called on Australia to stand up to China’s threats.
‘With more than 36 per cent of our exports being sold to China, representing 7.9 per cent of our GDP, it’s clear we have put too many eggs in the one basket,’ he told Parliament.
‘Being so entangled with an authoritarian regime has left our nation open to economic blackmail and boycotts like that mooted by China’s ambassador and the actions against our barley and beef exports.’
‘It is time to speak up on China’s economic infiltration and economic blackmail against our country.
‘Enough is enough, we must take a stand for our national sovereignty.’
One Liberal backbencher described the ban as a bastard act. Pictured is Australian rump for sale at a Melbourne butchery on Tuesday
Mr Christensen also urged Australia to use the Chinese-owned Port of Darwin as a bargaining chip.
It follows Liberal MP Andrew Hastie’s recent calls Australia to take back control of the port, calling the lease ‘strategically naïve’.
The beef ban comes a day after China’s Ministry of Commerce has threatened to slap an 80 per cent import tariff on barley imports as Australia refuses to retract its demand for an independent investigation into the origins of the coronavirus outbreak.
The proposal would be a major blow to the drought-stricken industry, which once exported more than $1.5 billion to China.
Australia was China’s biggest supplier of barley in 2017 before exports were halved when Beijing launched its ongoing anti-dumping investigation into the industry.
Barley exports to China plummeted from $1.5billion in 2018 to just $600million the following year.
Chinese Ambassador to Australia Cheng Jingye hinted at a boycott last month if Australia continued its push for a global conronavirus inquiry.
‘It is up to the people to decide. Maybe the ordinary people will say ‘Why should we drink Australian wine? Eat Australian beef?’ he told the Australian Financial Review.
The beef ban comes a day after China threatened to impose a 80 per cent export tax on Australian barley. Pictured are barley crops at a farm in Parkes in central west NSW
Statement by Trade Minister Simon Birmingham on beef bans
We were notified late yesterday that four Australian meat establishments have been suspended by Chinese Authorities over issues related to labelling and health certificate requirements.
We are concerned that the suspensions appear to be based on highly technical issues, which in some cases date back more than a year.
We’ve been speaking with industry leaders, colleagues and departments overnight to formulate a comprehensive response.
We will work with industry and authorities in both Australia and China to seek to find a solution that allows these businesses to resume their normal operations as soon as possible.
Scott Morrison denies Chinese plans for new tariffs on Australian grain are revenge for his coronavirus inquiry push – after Barnaby Joyce said they were ‘payback’
China‘s Ministry of Commerce has threatened to slap an 80 per cent import tariff on barley after an 18-month anti-dumping investigation.
The plan would seriously harm Australian barley farmers who send half their produce to China in a trade worth $150billion.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison (pictured today) does not believe Chinese plans for tariffs on Australian grain are connected to his push for a coronavirus inquiry
China has threatened to impose a 80 per cent export tax on Australian barley. Pictured are barley crops at a farm in Parkes in central west NSW
The proposal comes just two weeks after the Chinese ambassador in Canberra threatened economic sanctions in response to the Morrison government’s call for an investigation into the origins of coronavirus.
Former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce told the Seven Network on Monday: ‘This is a case of payback.’
But Mr Morrison said China had not linked barley tariffs to a COVID-19 inquiry or anything else.
He said it would be ‘extremely disappointing’ if tariffs were used as an act of retribution.
‘It’s an anti-dumping issue from their perspective. They certainly haven’t raised it as connected to other issues. I would be extremely disappointed if it was,’ he told reporters in Canberra on Monday.
Australia was once China’s biggest barley supplier before Beijing launched an anti-dumping investigation. Pictured is a worker sweeping barley at the Riordan Group grain depot near Geelong in Victoria
‘There’s no reason for me to think based on the way that they’re approaching it that I could draw that conclusion.’
Dumping is when a country exports a product unfairly cheaply to permeate a foreign market, with producers often subsidised by the government.
China is due to conclude its anti-dumping investigation into Australian barley by May 19 when producers and the federal government will have 10 days to reply.
‘We contest quite clearly that we do not subsidise and we have not dumped barley into China,’ Agriculture Minister David Littleproud told ABC radio.
‘We expect to be able to demonstrate that to Chinese officials and have been trying to do that for some 18 months and will continue to work with them.’
Australia is prepared to take China to the World Trade Organisation to fight against the tariffs.
‘That’s what the umpire is there for and that’s what we would test if we feel aggrieved that our position hasn’t been properly accepted or understood,’ Mr Littleproud said.
Grain Producers Australia described the proposed tariffs as an ‘absolutely a massive kick in the guts’. Pictured is a barley farmer in central west NSW
Labor’s agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon said the government needed to get the matter under control.
‘We are getting a taste now of what it is like when we mismanage our relationship with our largest trading partner. This issue of barley goes back 18 months, it predates COVID-19,’ Mr Fitzgibbon said.
‘This is what happens when you put populist policies in place, making big statements, beating your chest without thinking about potential economic consequences for Australia, and also our farmers.’
The federal government’s calls for a ban on wet markets and an inquiry into the virus origins – as well as repeated suggestions that China covered up the spread – have infuriated Beijing.
Last month the Chinese Embassy called Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton ‘pitiful,’ ‘ignorant’ and a US ‘parrot’ after he told China to ‘answer questions’ about how coronavirus started.
On April 26 Chinese Ambassador to Australia Jingye Cheng warned that Chinese consumers may stop buying Australian products in revenge.
The dispute comes after a torrid year for Australia-China relations saw clashes over political interference, human rights abuses in western China and Huawei 5G equipment.
Former Australian ambassador to China Geoff Raby told Daily Mail Australia that diplomatic relations are ‘at their lowest point since they began 46 years ago’.
AMBASSADOR’S ECONOMIC THREAT TO AUSTRALIA
In an interview with the Australian Financial Review, Ambassador Cheng slammed Australia’s push for a global inquiry as ‘political’ and warned Chinese consumers could boycott the country.
Answering a question about whether China could boycott Australian iron ore or gas, Mr Cheng instead focused on China’s contribution to Australia’s agriculture, tourism and education sectors.
Mr Cheng said: ‘I think if the mood is going from bad to worse, people would think why we should go to such a country while it’s not so friendly to China.
‘The tourists may have second thoughts. Maybe the parents of the students would also think whether this place, which they find is not so friendly, even hostile, is the best place to send their kids to.
‘So it’s up to the public, the people to decide. And also, maybe the ordinary people will think why they should drink Australian wine or eat Australian beef.’