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COVID-19 Tensions Place Australian Farmers in China's Crosshairs

Evan Rees
Asia-Pacific Analyst, Stratfor
May 13, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
An aerial photo shows villagers sowing highland barley seeds with agricultural machinery in the fields in Lhasa, the capital of China's Tibet Autonomous Region, on April 22, 2020.

Villagers in Lhasa, the capital of China's Tibet Autonomous Region, sow highland barley seeds with agricultural machinery on April 22, 2020.

(Xinhua/Purbu Zhaxi via Getty Images)

On May 10, Australian grain producers issued a joint statement warning that China has made a provisional decision to impose anti-dumping and anti-subsidy tariffs on Australian barley imports of up to 80.5 percent, effectively shutting down their exports to China. Sources within the Australian government say the timing of these tariffs is linked to the recent uptick in Chinese tensions over COVID-19, though Prime Minister Scott Morrison has publicly since said he does not believe the two are related. China's economic pressure, however, would have to expand beyond barley and the small group of beef slaughterhouses to compel Australia to reconsider its support of U.S. efforts to counter Beijing's rise. If Beijing threatens more sweeping measures against Australian beef exports, or turns to targeting wool exports, Canberra may be prompted to change its approach. But as things stand, barley producers in Australia have other options....

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