China hopes the Australian government will take its concerns seriously and take correct actions, said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin on Thursday.
Australia will launch a formal appeal to the World Trade Organization (WTO) later on Wednesday seeking a review of China's decision to impose hefty tariffs on imports of Australian barley, Minister for Trade Simon Birmingham said.
Wang said that he and his colleagues have stated China's position on individual trade cases many times.
If true, the reports "would indicate discriminatory trade practices being deployed by Chinese authorities", Birmingham told Australia's Radio National.
Experts say Beijing has been considering restricting Australian barley imports since 2018 owing to worries that China - which produces only around 20 percent of what it needs of the crop - is overly dependent on imports.
A spokesman for China's foreign ministry declined to comment specifically on the case, telling reporters at a briefing in Beijing Wednesday to contact the relevant department.
Investors in Australia's major coal producers are taking the reports as a bad sign.
"It is appropriate that when we argue for there to be global rules and an independent worldwide umpire to resolve disputes that, when we find ourselves in the case of having such disputes, we call in the umpire", he said.
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Based on current returns, the barley trade diverted to alternative markets is expected to sell at a lower price compared to export unit values to China prior to 19 May, ABARES cited the Department of Agriculture, Water, and the Environment and estimated that the combination of this price fall and the diversion of exports results in a modeled fall in barley export value of $750 million Australian dollars.
Senator Birmingham said referring China's barley sanctions to the World Trade Organisation was the "logical next step" for the government but he warned the process was "not perfect" and could "take longer than would be ideal".
The effective block on sales to China also comes as Australian barley production is expected to hit almost 12 million tonnes this crop year, after rain revived some of the biggest growing regions following years of drought.
"I have repeatedly heard some people from the Australian side claim to be the so-called victims, constantly accusing and attacking China by innuendo, which is completely making a countercharge confusing right and wrong". And China is a big customer, buying up almost a third of it. Beijing's already hit wine, seafood, timber, and more.
But the impact on trade of any move against Australian coal is tough to gauge.
The Global Times also published an opinion piece that labelled Australia an "anti-China pioneer" with a "sense of anxiety" about being invaded.