Canberra sought clarification from Beijing after China banned imports of Australian coal

Australia has reacted strongly to news that Chinese authorities may ban Imports of Australian coal, arguing that China’s move, if true, would be a breach of WORLD Trade Organisation rules and a “lose-lose” option.

Australian Prime Minister Morrison made the comments Tuesday in response to a piece of news in China’s state-run Global Times newspaper.

The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China’s economic planning agency, said in a meeting with representatives of 10 power companies over the weekend that they would not be subject to approval restrictions on coal imports, except from Australia, according to a report in the Global Times on Monday.

Mr. Morrison responded Tuesday that if the report is true, it would be a ‘bad outcome for both the Australian and Chinese economies, a lose-lose situation’ because other countries emit 50% more coal than Australia. Morrison said that if China abandoned Australian coal and switched to coal from other countries, it would have “a very bad effect on the environment.”

At the same time, Morrison also pointed out that China’s practice is discrimination against Australia, it is in violation of the WTO rules, Australia will be notified to the WTO.

However, Mr Morrison said Australia was seeking clarification of China’s position through official channels. Until then, Mr Morrison said he would regard the reports as “media speculation”.

News that China will restrict imports of Australian coal has been circulating for some time. Dozens of ships carrying Australian coal have been stranded at Chinese ports since November, waiting for customs clearance.

Birmingham, Australia’s trade minister, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Tuesday that Australia was “deeply disturbed” by reports of a change in Chinese media’s stance on coal imports. “If these reports are true, it would indicate that the Chinese government is engaging in discriminatory trade practices, and we would urge them to quickly abandon those practices,” he said.

In addition, Birmingham said Australia’s wto complaint against China over tariffs on Australian barley was “almost ready”.

In April this year, Morrison called on the international community to conduct an independent investigation into the origin of the novel Coronavirus, which started in China, and the australia-China relationship began to deteriorate rapidly. China has imposed sweeping economic sanctions on Australia, including barley, beef, wine, cotton, lobster, sugar, timber, tourism, education and wool.

The news, if confirmed, would be a new development in the deteriorating bilateral relationship. China is a major importer of resources, while Australia is a major exporter of resources. The two countries are highly complementary in terms of coal and iron ore.

In 2019, Chinese imports of Australian coal totaled about $10 billion. China and Japan accounted for more than half of Australia’s coal exports the same year. South Korea, India and Vietnam are also export markets for Australian coal.