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Thursday 17 November 2022

Wine industry cheered by thaw in Australia-China relations

The Australian wine industry is hoping for a breakthrough in the trade stalemate with China that has seen exports slump.

Wine industry leaders hope the recent meeting between Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Chinese leaders could eventually lead to a lifting of tariffs, which are costing the sector more than a billion dollars a year.

Australia and China took the first step towards repairing their diplomatic relationship following a "constructive" meeting between Albanese and Xi Jinping on the side line of the G20 summit in Bali earlier this week.

The new chief executive of Australian Grape & Wine, the national association for wine grape and wine producers, Lee McLean, described the meeting as "very positive", but warned producers there was "a long way to go", Australian Associated Press reported.

"Dialogue is great and we hope this sets the right conditions for further dialogue ... opening opportunities to resolve the import duties issue," he told AAP.

McLean said producers shouldn't expect an immediate removal of import duties as a result of an initial meeting.

"This is probably the start of the process," he said.

China's $20 billion worth of trade sanctions on Australia were discussed at the meeting between the two leaders.

Chinese tariffs on Australian wine exports of up to 218% were introduced in March 2021, and have made it unviable for most producers to sell into the growing Chinese market and its fast rising middle class.

Sales have since dropped in the Chinese market by 98%.

China had previously been the Australian wine industry's largest export market by value.

Agriculture Minister Murray Watt described the meeting between the nation's leaders as "significant" to the wine industry, and said he had talked with Albanese following the meeting.

"This is a very positive step - the first such meeting between the two countries' leaders since 2016," he told an audience of wine industry representatives in Adelaide. "There can be no doubt that our new government's renewed mature engagement in the Asia-Pacific is beginning to repair relationships damaged by the previous government."

Photo by Giorgia Frare on Scopio

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