New Zealand will be party to a trade dispute between Canberra and Beijing over heavy tariffs imposed by China on barley imports from Australia last year.

Australian barley imports were hit by 80% tariffs from China in May last year, widely seen as a political move following Australia’s calls for an investigation into the origins of COVID-19. China said Australia dumped below cost there, harming domestic producers.

In December, Australia addressed the World Trade Organization (WTO), which on Friday agreed to establish a dispute settlement panel.

New Zealand Trade Minister Damien O’Connor confirmed to Newshub on Saturday evening that Aotearoa “is participating in this dispute as a third party because it raises systemic issues important to the effective functioning of the multilateral trading system based on rules”.

“New Zealand abides by international rules and standards, so it is important for us and our exporters to ensure that international trade rules are applied fairly by others,” said the minister.

A third party can make representations to the panel and to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade says New Zealand participates as a “when we want to influence the interpretation and application of the WTO Agreements on matters which are also of direct concern to us”.

O’Connor said New Zealand had not been invited to join as a third party.

“However, we have been a third party in over 60 WTO cases since 1995 and it is not uncommon for us to join litigation when we see challenges to international trade rules,” he said. he told Newshub.

“We are building on the rules-based trading system to provide a secure and predictable global trading environment for all and we will act to maintain it.”

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