New Australian Government and China relations

Since the change of Government in Australia’s federal election in May, there has been some interest in the media and within industry around what this could mean for a possible thawing of the political relations between Australia and China. (ABC Article Will the change of Australian government end the trade war with China? illustrates the business realities of this trade dispute).

With the new Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, engaging in a number of international meetings within the first days of taking office, it didn’t take long for China to also make its position clear on the change of Government, with reports of a letter sent by China’s Premier Li Keqiang to congratulate Prime Minister Albanese.

The reported letter noted that China was “ready to work with the Australian side to review the past, look into the future and uphold the principle of mutual respect and mutual benefit, so as to promote the sound and steady growth of their comprehensive strategic partnership.” This statement represents a shift in China’s previously held stance with the former Government that has seen a ban on any high-level Government engagement with Australia.

Prime Minister Albanese and Labor’s stance on China relations, since this was reported, have remained firm while showing some signs of a willingness to engage diplomatically with China. The Government has noted that relations with China would “remain difficult” and that the new Government will continuing to act in Australia’s national interest.  More recently, the Government have noted “It’s not Australia that’s changed, it’s China that’s changed. It is China that placed sanctions on Australia,” urging China to lift trade sanctions if it wants to reset a bilateral relationship.

The Australia- China WTO dispute resolution on Anti-Dumping and Countervailing Duty Measures on Wine from Australia is also concurrently progressing. This continues to present a useful avenue to engage in dialogue with China on the measures imposed on Australian Wine. The most recent update to this action, from March 2022, was the formulation and agreement between Australia and China, which agreed on the composition of the three person panel who will adjudicate the case. The holding of a despute panel will form the next steps in this WTO action.

So, what could it all mean for Australian wine? There is still a long way to go – while we do not expect an immediate re-opening of the Chinese market for Australian wine as a result of this gesture, we hope that it signals a willingness to engage in dialogue between our two countries at the political level. There is still strong demand for Australian wine in China and we hope Chinese consumers can enjoy Australia’s finest wines again in the near future.

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