WTO creates panel in China-Australia barley row

Barley south of Ethelton, Sask. on July 30, 2019. (Dave Bedard photo)

Sydney/Geneva | Reuters — The World Trade Organization (WTO) agreed on Friday to establish a dispute settlement panel to resolve a row over anti-dumping and countervailing duties imposed by China on Australian barley, a trade source attending the meeting said.

Australia launched a formal appeal to the WTO last year, seeking a review of China’s decision to impose hefty tariffs on imports of Australian barley, one of several current sources of friction between the two countries.

“The DSB agreed to the establishment of a panel,” said the Geneva-based trade source who attended the private meeting of the WTO’s dispute settlement body.

Australian Trade Minister Dan Tehan said earlier it would submit a request for a panel. Its first request for adjudication was blocked by China last month.

However, Tehan said that Australia remained “open to further discussions with China with a view to resolving this issue.”

China said at the meeting it was confident that its duty measures would be found to be consistent with WTO requirements, the trade source said. It also remained open to continued talks on the matter.

The panel typically concludes in six months although its conclusions are subject to appeal.

Australia’s formal trade dispute submission in December was one of just five such requests made in 2020, WTO data showed, down from 20 the previous year.

The WTO’s top adjudication panel, the Appellate Body, is currently paralyzed after the administration of former U.S. President Donald Trump blocked new judge appointments.

— Reporting for Reuters by Renju Jose and Emma Farge.

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