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Asia Today: Australia disappointed by China's barley tariffs

AP  |  Bangkok 

Australia's trade minister has described as deeply disappointing China's decision to place tariffs of around 80 per cent on Australian barley in a dispute that has been linked to Australian support for a coronavirus inquiry.

The tariffs that take effect Tuesday come a week after China banned beef imports from Australia's four largest abattoirs over labelling issues.

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham rejects China's claim that barley is subsidised by the Australian government.

Birmingham also says Australia could appeal to the World Trade Organisation to resolve both the beef and barley disputes.

Birmingham said he has tried without success to speak to his Chinese counterpart Zhong Shan for the past week.

In Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian says China is looking into trade issues between the sides in accordance with related laws and World Trade Organisation rules.

Australian barley farmer Andrew Weidemann says the tariff barrier stops the trade completely with Australia's biggest customer.

Weidemann estimates the tariffs will cost the Australian economy more than 500 million Australian dollars (USD 326 million).

He says China has been investigating Australian barley for 18 months, but Australia's call for a coronavirus inquiry didn't help.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region,

South Korea has reported 13 fresh cases, a possible sign that a recent outbreak in the capital area is stabilising, as officials prepare to reopen schools.

Nine of the new cases were from Seoul and nearby regions, where dozens of infections have been linked to clubgoers who went out in early May as the country began relaxing social distancing measures.

Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip urged vigilance to maintain hard-won gains against the virus and called for education officials to double check preventive measures with high-school seniors returning to school on Wednesday.

China reported seven new coronavirus cases, a day after Chinese President Xi Jinping announced his country would provide USD 2 billion to help respond to the outbreak and its economic fallout.

Three of the new cases were listed as imported. Two were registered as local infections in Jilin province, and another local case was identified in Hubei province, whose capital Wuhan is where the pandemic began late last year.

Xi's appearance via video link at the World Health Assembly came amid finger-pointing between the US and China over the pandemic and WHO bowing to calls to launch an independent probe into how it managed the response to the coronavirus.

China has repeatedly said now is not the time for such an investigation, especially one that could look into allegations that it for suppressed information and bungled its response to the initial outbreak.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, May 19 2020. 08:18 IST