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End in sight for Chinese import tariffs on Australian wine

Published:  13 March, 2024

The Chinese government has hinted at the imminent removal of punitive tariffs for the import of Australian wine which have cost the Australian wine industry around $1bn a year since 2020.

China went from being Australia’s top export market to almost non-existent overnight when tariffs of over 200% were introduced back in 2020, with value sales plummeting from $1.2bn at their peak to about $10m last year.

According to various international outlets, the tariffs could be lifted within weeks.

China has now recommended dropping tariffs on Australian wine exports in an ‘interim decision’ which could mark the end of a four-year de facto ban on Australian wine entering the country.

The question now becomes, how will the Australian industry respond?

Australia became hugely reliant on booming sales of its wine inside China in the years leading up to the introduction of the tariffs when the Chinese government accused Australian wine businesses of anti-competitive behaviour and ‘dumping’ cheap wine in the country.

The tariffs certainly had a major impact on the likes of Accolade Wines and Treasury Wine Estates, which have been forced to explore other markets such as America and Southeast Asia in order to offset losses in China. Last month, Accolade (Australia’s second-largest producer), was taken over by a consortium of investors led by US-based management consulting company Bain & Co after the company struggled to adapt to Chinese tariffs and a consumer shift away from lower-priced brands.

Australian wine companies will likely re-approach China with caution, having become overly reliant on its custom. For now, the Australian government is continuing to lobby for the removal of China’s trade bans such as hefty tariffs on barley. These were removed last year and trade has since resumed, paving the way to resolve other areas of diplomatic tension.