Coal exports could be new trade war victim

Marco Green
May 23, 2020

At the time, the opaque nature - to Western eyes - of the Chinese political system meant no-one was really certain whether the implied sanctions against one of our main export products was a political statement or a non-tariff protection for the massive Chinese coal industry, which is nearly eight times the size of Australia's but struggles with safety and efficiency problems.

There is government concern coal exporters could be the latest victim of Australia's trade war with China as the issue creates disunity in Labor ranks.

Deputy prime minister Michael McCormack is concerned coal exporters could face a tougher time selling the commodity into China.

While he acknowledged the government was concerned, he said China needed Australia as much as we needed our largest trading partner. Fast-forward to this week, and imports of Australian thermal coal are again under a cloud, and again - unless the Chinese make a formal statement on the issue - no-one can be really sure what they intend.

Trade tensions have embroiled Australia's barley and beef industry, with Beijing angered by Canberra's call for an worldwide inquiry into the origins of coronavirus.

Coal exports faced delays at Chinese ports previous year.

Senator Birmingham is being ignored by his Chinese counterpart.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said the stonewalling was part of China's tactics.

He said Australia would stand firm in its values after the push for a global coronavirus inquiry stung China.

But some are making links between Australia's advocacy very early on for an global inquiry into the coronavirus outbreak and and trade repercussions, including Shadow Agriculture and Resources Minister Joel Fitzgibbon.

"We simply can't afford the job losses that would result from the sort of incidents that we're seeing with barley", he told reporters in Sydney. "They know the quality of our coal, they know the quality of our iron ore and other resources".

Thermal coal, which is used to generate power, is one of Australia's top-three exports to China.

Beijing has announced changes to inspection protocols for iron-ore shipments, including the ability to conduct "toxic element checks".

"Early indications of talking to the industry are indeed that this would provide an opportunity for benefits both to China and to Australia", he said.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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