Column: China targets Australian barley, but what matters is coal, LNG, iron ore – by Clyde Russell (Reuters U.K. – May 19, 2020)

LAUNCESTON, Australia (Reuters) – If China was looking to send a political message to Australia by effectively banning the import of a commodity, then barley fits the bill almost perfectly.

China on Monday imposed what it termed anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties totalling 80.5% on Australian barley imports from May 19, a move likely to end trade that has been worth between $980 million and $1.3 billion in recent years.

Australia’s official reaction has so far been muted, with Agriculture Minister David Littleproud saying the government will consider approaching the World Trade Organization for a ruling on China’s action.

The official reason for the tariffs is that Australia is dumping barley and damaging China’s domestic industry. Finding anyone who believes this is the sole motive behind the duties would be a challenge.

Rather, the move is seen as Beijing’s ongoing expression of displeasure over Canberra’s role in pushing for an international investigation into the origins of the novel coronavirus, and China’s initial handling of the outbreak that has turned into a pandemic, slamming economies around the world.

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