Beijing’s Alleged Ban on Australian Coal Signals ‘Discriminatory Trade Practices’: Trade Minister

December 15, 2020 Updated: December 15, 2020

Federal Trade and Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham says reports that China will curb imports of Australian coal are “discriminatory” and in violation of their trade agreements.

According to Chinese state-owned media, Global Times, Australian coal imports have been added to the growing list of banned products, with Beijing shifting focus to countries signed to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Birmingham, in response to the report, told ABC’s RN Breakfast on Tuesday that the Australian government has not been officially notified of the ban but, if it is true “would indicate discriminatory trade practices being deployed by Chinese authorities.”

He urged the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to signal that they are committed to the targets in the Free Trade Agreement and said, as a World Trade Organisation member, they must follow their rules.

us china trade
A cargo ship loaded with containers makes its way to a port in Qingdao city, eastern Shandong Province, China, on January 14, 2020. (STR/AFP via Getty Images)

Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed that the Australian government is demanding clarity from the Chinese regime on whether the reports of the coal ban are accurate.

“Those reports have not been clarified by the Chinese government,” Morrison told reporters in Launceston on Tuesday. “If that were the case, that would obviously be in breach of WTO rules and our own free-trade agreements so we would hope that it is not the case.”

Morrison said Australia’s thermal coal exports have a “diverse customer base.”

“China is not our biggest market for thermal coal. That is, in fact, Japan which is more than double the exports we have to China,” he said.

Australian cargo ships have been delayed in China’s coastal waters for months, with foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian claiming the coal failed to meet environmental standards, according to a report in The Sunday Morning Herald on Nov. 26.

Trade attacks on Australia have increased throughout the year following a push from Foreign Minister Marise Payne to investigate the origins of the CCP virus commonly known as coronavirus.

Australian products of barley, beef, lobster, timber, and wine have been either banned, levied, or heavily regulated. China’s grievances list grew after Australia’s foreign investment rules reformed.

“We intend to continue to pursue every avenue, to defend the rights of Australian businesses, to trade in a manner consistent with the undertakings China has made to Australia and to the rest of the world,” said Birmingham at a press conference.

AAP contributed to this article.