BEIJING/KABUL—China has canceled major Canadian agribusiness Richardson International Ltd’s registration to ship canola to China, according to a document that was posted on the website of the Chinese customs administration on March 1.
It wasn’t immediately clear why Richardson’s exports into China, the world’s top importer of canola, had been halted. Officials at China’s General Administration of Customs didn’t respond to requests for comment.
But the move comes amid heightened tensions between the two countries in a dispute over trade and telecoms technology that has ensnared the chief financial officer of the world’s largest telecommunications equipment maker, Huawei Technologies Ltd, who faces U.S. criminal charges.
The March 1 customs document, a listing of approved exporters, is a revised version of a notice first posted on Jan. 14. A note beside the entry for Richardson International in the latest document says, “Canola export registration already canceled.”
A Canadian grain industry source with knowledge of the matter confirmed Richardson’s exports of canola to China had been halted. The person declined to be identified citing the sensitivity of the matter.
A lasting block on Richardson’s canola exports would be a headache for Canada’s biggest grain handler and a potential blow for the Canadian economy as a whole.
Oilseeds like canola, fruit and grain are Canada’s biggest China export category, making up nearly 17 percent of all exports in 2017, the latest annual data available, according to the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada.
Spokespeople at Richardson’s headquarters in Canada couldn’t be reached outside normal business hours.
Canada’s embassy in Beijing referred Reuters’ request for comment to government officials in Ottawa.
China has detained two Canadians working in the country—Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor—on December 2018, shortly after Canada’s arrest of Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, who faces allegations of fraud in the United States.
On Monday, Beijing accused Kovrig and Spavor of acting together to steal state secrets, an announcement that comes just days after Canada said it will proceed with a U.S. extradition request against Meng. Spavor was accused of passing on intelligence information to Kovrig.
Beijing’s detention of the two Canadians is widely regarded as an attempt by the regime to pressure Canada over Meng’s case.
Canadian authorities arrested Meng at the request of the United States on Dec. 1, 2018, as she was changing planes in Vancouver. U.S. authorities have filed charges against both Meng and telecom giant Huawei; Meng is accused of bank and wire fraud that violated U.S. sanctions against Iran.
Meng, who is currently under house arrest after being freed on bail, denies the charges against her. She has filed a civil lawsuit against the Canadian government, the Canada Border Services Agency, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
There had already been reports last month that Canadian canola shipments to China had been slow to clear customs amid the dispute.
China buys some C$2.5 billion ($1.88 billion) of Canadian canola per year, and a slower sales pace would be another hit to exporters, which also include Viterra and Cargill Ltd.
The restriction on imports of canola from a country with which links have worsened echoes recent moves by Chinese customs to slow clearing of Australian coal imports.
Australia’s ties with China have deteriorated since 2017, when Canberra accused China of meddling in its domestic affairs.
Tensions rose again last month after Australia rescinded the visa of a prominent Chinese businessman, just months after barring Huawei from supplying equipment to its 5G broadband network.
By Dominique Patton & Rod Nickel. The Epoch Times contributed to this report.