China’s Ministry of Commerce has targeted three large Australian wineries – Casella, Treasury Wine Estates and Australian Swan Vintage (Auswan) – as part of its dumping investigation into Australian wine.
These companies have been given 37 days to complete a detailed questionnaire about their business activities.
Tony Battaglene, chief executive of Australian Grape & Wine, describes the information being sought from China as “incredibly intrusive”.
“There are seven days now for people to comment on whether they think the sampling process is appropriate, and then they will be issued with a questionnaire – this is a large 80-page questionnaire,” he told ABC Radio today.
“It’s incredibly intrusive information based on your cost of production, your brand and everything to do with your sales channels, your shareholders, your ownership.
“It’s an enormous amount of work which they will then need fill in so the Chinese can access whether they believe that drumping has occurred.”
Mr Battaglene says the Chinese haven’t decided yet who they will sample for the second investigation into government subsidies.
“We’re expecting a decision to be made by the Chinese tomorrow where we think they will issue the names of the companies that they believe should be suitable samples,” he says.
“As far as we know 31 companies filled in the questionnaire so we’ll just wait and see.
“We’re not trying to second-guess but it seems like due process is being observed.”
Auswan has strong Chinese links. The founder and chief executive of the company is Wei Li, a Chinese Australian entrepreneur who became an Australian citizen in 1999.
Geoffrey Raby AO, who was Australian ambassador to China between 2007 and 2011, is a brand ambassador for Auswan.
China accounts for 17 percent of sales for Treasury Wine Estates and 35 percent of earnings.
Casella has told WBM they are fully cooperating with any requests for information from China.
Australian exports to China have grown from $55 million in 2007 to $1.1 billion in 2020.