Interview with Oliver Peterson, 6PR Perth

18 August 2020

OLIVER PETERSON: Why is the Chinese government launching an anti-dumping probe into Australian wine? On the line, the Agriculture Minister David Littleproud. Good afternoon.

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Good afternoon. Good to be with you.

OLIVER PETERSON: It is a huge export market for Australian winemakers to China. Why is China now launching this anti-dumping probe?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well the Chinese wine industry has made application to the Chinese government, making accusations that we have not only dumped, but subsidised Australian wine growers. We vigorously refute that claim and we'll be defending the wine industry very strongly with that.

The Chinese government has advised us there'll be a 12-month investigation into this. We'll respect the process and work closely with them to make sure they understand clearly that there is no subsidisation. In fact, of the 37 OECD countries in the world, there's only New Zealand that subsidises their agricultural less than Australia.

So we are quite clearly have a strong case as to- as well, I should say, to the fact that Australian wine is the second highest priced wine in China at the moment. So you do not go and dump a premium product. This is a very premium product that the world has now recognised, just not China.

And so, we'll work as quickly as we can with industry in making sure we address these concerns that China has raised from their industry; do that quickly but understand that there is 12 months in which this investigation will take place.

OLIVER PETERSON: Why has the Chinese government decided to launch this investigation, do you believe, David Littleproud?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well I can only take them on face value that, in essence, their industry has made this claim. We are a growing market in China. We are- 39 per cent of wine exports go to China and we're continuing to increase that market share as a whole in China as well. There's a huge appetite for premium Australian wine and I would suggest that their industry is somewhat concerned by the dominance of Australian wine in China.

That is all I can surmise because there's no factual evidence to suggest that we have dumped our premium wine or subsidised wine growers in Australia to any aspect whatsoever.

OLIVER PETERSON: Is this just a response again from the Chinese Communist Government in regards to Australia calling for an independent inquiry into the origins of coronavirus? We've seen it with beef exports, now its wine, a one-billion-dollar industry. Surely, we can make the link there, David Littleproud.

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well I'll leave that for commentators to make that link, quite frankly. It doesn't- that doesn't worry me one way or another. We don't intend to change our position with respect to that. We intend to stand quite firmly on the fact that we led the world in asking for a review into this, as any good global citizens should.

This has now affected so many people around the world. We are a global community and as a good global citizen, shouldn't you ask why? So Australia will not take a backward step with respect to preserving its values and principles and also being a good global citizen and if that's upset somebody, well will continue to work through with them in a constructive way.

But we intend to preserve those principles and values and we'll continue to look at each one of these cases individually and make sure that we vigorously defend our agricultural sector and also give them the opportunity to send their product into other markets which we've done.

OLIVER PETERSON: So Australia won't be bullied?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well we intend to stand up to our principles exactly and why shouldn't we? We've got a lot to be proud of. I think we've got a leadership role to play globally and I think that if Australia is prepared to lead the world, I don't think that's a bad thing. And it shows the maturity of our nation in how we can have an influence in the world in being a better place.

We're not saying that we're- we're demanding that everyone should- should fall into line and espouse our values and principles, but what we think they are ones that are- that should be listened to. And if there's an opportunity to advance that globally, then why shouldn't we stand up? I think the world will be a better place. Australia's the best country in the world. And anybody that wants to live by the values and principles we do, I think they'll enjoy a greater society than what some may have at the moment.

OLIVER PETERSON: China is the biggest export destination for Australian wine. What will fill the void?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well this is where we continue to work in new markets and in fact, we're seeing even in places like Denmark increased significantly. We're looking- as we talk, Simon Birmingham and I are working through a free trade agreement with the UK and the EU. They're emerging markets that are taking a real shine to Australian wine and the United States and Canada and Japan continue to be big consumers of Australian wine.

So we're able to send boats left and right, if this turns south on us. But the reality is, is this will take some 12 months and we're giving our producers the opportunity to spread their risk and to be able to look at other markets and to be able to get their product around the world and also domestically. It's a good drop that all Australians obviously understand and consume in the appropriate quantities.

OLIVER PETERSON: Yeah, go and support local, that's for sure. David Littleproud, appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Thanks for having me, mate. Anytime.

OLIVER PETERSON: The Agriculture Minister David Littleproud, live on the program this afternoon. The shares in Treasury Wine Estates, of course, they sell Penfolds, Rawsons Retreat into the Chinese market - they fell more than 14 per cent after that announcement, before being placed into a trading halt. And on return, they are approaching 20 per cent as Treasury shares sank below $10 after midday today.