Australian agriculture is at further risk from souring diplomatic tensions with China, former Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer has warned. Speaking at a virtual Australian Grains Industry Conference on Thursday, Mr Downer said more Australian agriculture could be impacted as the world faced a “much more aggressive” China. In May, the Asian superpower imposed hefty tariffs on Australian barley after an 18-month anti-dumping and countervailing investigation. It also banned beef exports from four Eastern States abattoirs after the Morrison Government called for an independent inquiry into the origins of coronavirus. This week, China’s state media threatened trade sanctions on Australian beef and wine after the Federal Government backed the US on the South China Sea. “The risk with China is rising for an industry like the grains industry,” Mr Downer, a former UK high commissioner, said. “Other agricultural industries are somewhat at risk. The Chinese Government is not going to take measures which are counterproductive for China. “Where there are essential imports in areas like iron ore and coal, they’re not really likely to hit Australia.” Trade Minister Simon Birmingham has said he had not spoken for some time to his Chinese counterpart. He has been trying to hold talks since May, when China applied the 80 per cent duties on Australian barley. Mr Birmingham said an appeal on the tariff decision would be pursued with the World Trade Organisation if an administrative appeal was not successful. Mr Downer said the WTO appeal option was a good process but suspected it would take a “very long time” and China still may not accept the decision. Mr Downer said at the very least, China’s trade minister should take Mr Birmingham’s calls. “It’s incredibly rude of the Chinese trade minister. It’s not good and it’s not the way grown-ups should behave,” he said.