Australia seeks clarity from China on coal import ban

The Australian Government has approached Chinese authorities for confirmation on speculation that the nation is banning Australian coal imports.

Australian Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Simon Birmingham said the federal government was “taking action and having discussions with China” after approaching authorities in the Asian nation overnight.

However, Birmingham has reiterated that the Australian Government has “no evidence to suggest” that Chinese steel makers and power plants have been explicitly told to stop importing Australian coal.

“We have no evidence to suggest that is the case, but I’ve seen those reports,” Birmingham said.

“We’re talking to the industry and we will continue to engage through officials with China to try to secure reassurance on these matters.”

This is not the first time there has been speculation with regard to China importing Australian coal, as trade tensions between the two countries have continued throughout 2020.

However, Birmingham said that previous disruptions between the two nations have always recovered as a result of various different factors, including the application of some domestic quotas in the Chinese system.

“I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves in terms of the speculation there but we are working with industry, taking action and having discussions with China,” he said.

“We’re taking the accusations at a value where we are at least engaging with the Chinese system, seeking a response in relation to those claims that have been aired publicly and are working with Australian industry, as always, to try to save Australian jobs.”

Birmingham made clear that the Australian door remains open for discussion with the Chinese Government about the export of coal for steelmaking, with coal remaining an important part of Australia’s export mix as a reliable energy source for countries throughout Asia, including China.

In the 2019 financial year, Australia’s value of coal export was $69.6 billion.

During the 2018-19 financial period, China imported $14 billion worth of Australian coal.

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