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SYDNEY: Australia has reached an agreement with China to resolve their dispute over barley imports, Foreign Minister Penny Wong said on Tuesday, the latest sign of improving ties between the trade partners.

China’s tariffs of 80.5% on Australian barley all but wiped out imports of the grain by the world’s biggest beer market, prompting a formal complaint by Australia to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2020.

Until then they had ranged between A$1.5 billion ($1 billion) and A$2 billion a year. Wong said Australia would suspend the WTO case while China hastens a review into duties imposed on the grain. “China has agreed to undertake an expedited review of the duties imposed on Australian barley over a three-month period, that may extend to a fourth, if required,” she told a news conference.

“In return, we have agreed to temporarily suspend the WTO dispute for the agreed review period.”

The government expects a similar result in a second dispute on wine tariffs, she added. In a statement, Grain Producers Australia welcomed the move, which could speed up the resumption of the barley trade.

“This process to reach a resolution would be significantly shorter than if the WTO process continued,” said Chairman Barry Large. China’s Ministry of Commerce did not respond to a request for comment. Just one of several sources of friction between the two nations in recent years, China’s anti-dumping and countervailing duties prompted its buyers to turn to Canada, France and other markets. But prices of barley have fallen since the start of the year, partly on hopes that Australia will resume imports.

“Everybody is waiting for Australian barley to come,” said Yang Zhenglong, general manager at Malteurop China. While most maltsters in China already have enough stocks for this year, resumption of trade in a few months time would allow Australia’s new barley crop, harvested from October, to reach China at the end of the year, he added.

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