Interview with David Koch, Sunrise

20 May 2020

DAVID KOCH: Agriculture Minister David Littleproud joins us now from Warwick in Queensland. Minister, appreciate your time. Look, have you decided whether or not you'll take China to the World Trade Organization over this issue?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Yeah. Good morning, Kochie. Effectively the first step, after consultation with industry yesterday Simon Birmingham and I had with them, is probably to appeal at a local level in China. We have 60 days in which to do that.

We believe we have a very strong case in which to prosecute that Australian barley farmers are not subsided and have not dumped barley into China. If that fails, then obviously we will reserve our right and likely pursue opportunity to take it to the WTO. We've already done that against Canada on wine and India on sugar. We believe that we have a strong case and if we haven't been understood, we will reserve our right to take it to the independent umpire to make that determination.

DAVID KOCH: Okay. So you're going direct to China. Do you reckon you will get a fair hearing though? Won't they just be told what to do by Beijing?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well that's, we are working within Beijing at the moment. I have agricultural councillors and trade officials from Simon Birmingham's office in Beijing working with officials now.

So we'll work constructively through a set process and it's important to respect that process. We're fair traders, we're a fair nation within the global community and it's important we live up to responsibilities, we'll stick to the process. But that's only 60 days and then once that's completed, we'll make a determination at the WTO.

DAVID KOCH: Right. Okay. Well, we've angered the Chinese with some pretty blunt remarks in the past. You said yesterday we shouldn't read it to the fact that the barley tariffs have come at the same time as the increased diplomatic tensions with China over coronavirus. Do you honestly, hand on heart, scout's honour, believe they're unrelated?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Yeah, Kochie. I do.

DAVID KOCH: Really?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: I mean this has been in place for 18 months. And in fact, we extended this a further six months and that was the extent to which we could extend it. The juncture at the point in time has come at a critical point in terms of COVID-19, we respect that, but I think to speculate outside of that is dangerous. We've got to keep to the course and look at each one of these cases on an individual basis.

And you alluded to the beef situation, those four abattoirs. Let me just put into perspective, one of those abattoirs is in fact partially Chinese owned, so they've imposed this temporary ban on one of their own companies here in Australia.

So I think we just need to take a calm look at these and look at them individually and make determinations from that.

DAVID KOCH: Okay. David Littleproud, thanks for joining us. Appreciate it.

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Thanks, mate.