Australian wool could be China’s next trade target, given its heavy dependency on the Chinese market, alongside honey, fruit, dairy and pharmaceutical products, according to analysts. About 80 per cent of Australian wool goes to China for processing and onward sales, and as direct sales to China, making it a particularly vulnerable target, said Scott Waldron, a senior research fellow at the School of Agriculture and Food Science at the University of Queensland who has been analysing the logic behind China’s trade moves. “If the main aim of Chinese coercion is to maximise costs and leverage on Australia, it would target wool,” he said in his research paper, The Logic of China’s Economic Coercion on Australian Agriculture , published last week by research institute Future Directions International. He added that Australian wool exporters have limited alternative markets, and said “a substantive barrier would cripple the Australian industry”. While a block on Australian wool would also lead to China’s own garment industry suffering collateral damage – there are few markets that can replace Australia’s high-quality fine wool – China is willing to bear the costs not only to inflict maximum coercion on Australia but to simultaneously achieve its long-term strategy of assisting local industries, and its wider goals of food security and import diversification, Waldron added. Australian wine faces duties of up 218.5 per cent These strategies also underscore the logic of its trade actions against Australia thus far, he said. There have been no statements from the Chinese governments that it will target Australian wool. However, the overall geopolitical atmosphere between Beijing and Canberra remains hostile, with each side blaming the other this week for going against the spirit of free trade . Ed Storey, a sheep farmer in the state of New South Wales and the president of Australia’s wool industry, Wool Producers Australia, said he was confident that the trade was in good shape, and that there were no signs of problems with shipments to China. “There’s regular conversation, and a constructive relationship, with China,” he said, adding that Australian wool was a key ingredient in the global garment supply chain. “We have every confidence in our exports, as Australian wool always has a good reputation around the world.” What could save Australian wool from being targeted by China is that the product is relatively irreplaceable – unlike Australian barley, which, having been slapped with an anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duty of 80.5 per cent since May, can be sourced from Canada, Ukraine and France, according to Waldron. “The costs of imposing barriers on Australian wool are, for the time being, too high. Australian iron ore may be in a similar position, although unlike wool, China depends on it,” he said. “The coercion has not yet reached as far as critical commodities like wool and iron ore, which would signal decoupling.” A new analysis by research house IBISWorld also shows that honey, dairy and pharmaceutical products could be targeted by Beijing due to their reliance on the Chinese market for export sales. “Agricultural industries, particularly producers of honey, fruit and dairy products, should be on high alert for tariff disruptions in the near future. There is also an outside chance of tariff disruption on Australian pharmaceutical exports and mining commodities,” IBISWorld senior industry analyst Liam Harrison said. China-Australia relations: iron ore price surges amid strong demand and souring ties Milk powder exports are particularly dependent on the Chinese market, IBISWorld data shows. Nearly 41 per cent of revenue from Australian milk powder export sales comes from China, with export sales making up 97 per cent of its total sales revenue. Some Chinese importers told the South China Morning Post that milk was unlikely to be targeted by the Chinese government, as it was crucial to food security in China after a milk powder melamine scare in 2008 when infants were poisoned after drinking milk formula that contained the chemical, which is used in plastic. “Action against this market would likely cause significant backlash from Chinese consumers, and could result in weakened support for continuing trade restrictions against Australia,” Harrison said. The latest published Australian dairy outlook, on Tuesday, showed in particular that Australia’s total milk trade with China had been steady all year. “Strong Chinese demand for dairy has continued to keep the market relatively well balanced and been the main driver of a 3.8 per cent increase in global dairy trade in the 12 months to August,” industry body Dairy Australia said. Pharmaceutical goods, which earn 30 per cent of export sales revenue from China, could also be on the chopping block. These goods, mainly supplement products such as vitamins, have been a hit with Chinese consumers. In the 2018-19 period, exports of vitamins and supplements to China increased three-fold to exceed A$680 million (US$506.3 million) with Australian supplements accounting for more than one-fifth of Chinese imports, due to their reputation for safety, IBISWorld said. Some fruits could also come under trade pressure, with just over 45 per cent of Australia’s citrus fruit export sales, and about 30 per cent of seeded-fruit export sales, coming from China. However, the two industries’ dependence on export markets is relatively low. With China accounting for more than a quarter of Australian honey exports, particularly manuka honey, the sweet food could also be vulnerable to a trade action, IBISWorld added.