Australia’s leading wine authority to close office in China as exports plunge

Thursday, 23 June, 2022
CNBC, Su-Lin Tan
Wine Australia will be closing its only physical office in China.

Australia’s leading wine industry body Wine Australia will be closing its only physical office in China after sales to the greater China succumb to Beijing’s prohibitive duties.

“Wine Australia has made the difficult decision to close our physical office in Shanghai. This decision follows extensive consultation with the Australian grape and wine sector and is based on the current environment and market opportunity,” a Wine Australia spokeswoman said.

“Wine Australia will continue to maintain our brand presence in China via our wine trade and consumer facing social media channels, and will continue to work closely with in-market trade representatives on brand building and marketing campaigns.”

The once 1.2 billion Australian dollar-a-year trade ($830 million) has whittled down to just over AU$200 million at the end of March, an alleged casualty of the tension between the two countries.

Wine Australia said it will continue to operate in China as it does in other markets, through “relationships with key in-market agency and marketing partners, trade show organizers and education networks,” a format that tends to be used for smaller trading markets.

The industry body is responsible for supporting Australia’s wine industry through research and development as well as establishing new export markets.

The once-envied Chinese trade for Australian exporters however suffered a blow in 2020 when Beijing launched an investigation into allegations of dumping cheap Australian wine in China.

Beijing subsequently imposed anti-dumping duties of between 116.2% and 218.4%, rendering Australian wines uncompetitive in the Chinese market. The matter is being arbitrated at the World Trade Organization.

Anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties are protectionist tariffs that governments impose on imports that they deem to be below fair market value, usually at prices lower than the exporting countries’ domestic markets.

The punitive tariffs were among a series of Chinese trade restrictions on Australian exports including barley, coal and lobsters.

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