TRADE minister Simon Birmingham has flagged an appeal to the World Trade Organization following a decision by China to impose tariffs upon imports of Australian wine.

The tariffs were announced last week and come in the context of a trade dispute between the two nations that has seemingly grown in intensity following Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s call for an inquiry into the origins of COVID-19.

“We certainly reserve all our rights to use the WTO processes. We’ve already raised our concerns through those WTO processes,” Senator Birmingham told Peter Stefanovic of Sky News.

“And certainly we will look to, if it comes to it, there is some domestic processes in China on the wine case still to go.

But if we fail at those domestic hurdles, then we reserve all our rights in relation to a WTO appeal as well.”

Senator Birmingham denied suggestions China was now a “lost market” for Australian wine.

“But it is an incredibly challenging market now for the Australian wine industry so long as these tariffs remain in place,” he said.

“We’re going to work with the wine industry as hard as we can to try to overturn this decision by China and to try to ensure that we get those unfair and unjustified tariffs removed.

“But in the interim, yes, it is going to be a hellishly tough time for Australia’s winemakers.”

The full interview can be seen here.

Australia – China Business Council national president David Olsson said Australian business could not afford hostility surrounding the wine tariff dispute to become the new normal.

“Endless debate over the rights and wrongs of our respective positions will get us nowhere,” Mr Olsson said.

“That debate needs to be set to one side. What’s critical is a recognition that the grievances are real. We may not agree with them, but the grievances at the heart of current tensions are genuine and they’re not going away any time soon.

“The challenge for all of us is to craft solutions that save face on all sides – no easy task when the grievances are so deeply felt by both sides.”