Chinese customs put the pinch on a shipment of Australian lobsters over the weekend – and now coal, wine and timber will soon follow.
The authoritarian regime is continuing to target Australian exports as tensions between Beijing and Canberra worsen in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
All Chinese companies have been informally instructed by the Communist Party to stop buying Australian barley, sugar, red wine, logs, coal, lobster and copper from Friday.
That means any of these products that arrive after Friday will not be cleared by customs, as China looks to turn the screws on Australia’s largest export market, worth over $150billion export.
All Chinese companies have been informally instructed by the Communist Party to stop buying Australian barley, sugar, red wine, logs, coal, lobster and copper from Friday (pictured, an employee stacks Australian made wine on shelves in Beijing)
Diplomatic relations between Australia and China have deteriorated significantly during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Pictured: Xi Jinping (left) and Scott Morrison (right)
Agriculture Minister David Littleproud on Monday revealed about $2million worth of live Western Australian rock lobsters were seized by customs agents in Shanghai for extra checks.
The apparent attempt to harm Australian exporters comes after Australia-China relations rapidly deteriorated following Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s call for an independent international inquiry into the origins of coronavirus in April, which was first identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
Since April, China has already slapped an 80 per cent tariff on Australian barley, suspended beef and cotton imports, and told students and tourists not to travel Down Under.
The General Administration of Customs of China issued a warning notice to exporters claiming to have found an invasive pest known as the bark beetle Ips grandicollis, in logs imported from Queensland.
China says the ‘biohazard’ is the reason for the ban, the South China Morning Post reported.
The opaque totalitarian nation made a similar claim about Australian grain exporter Emerald Grain, with tenuous evidence.
China has enacted a freeze on all Australian thermal and coking coal shipments (pictured, an Australian mine worker at Central Queensland’s Caval Ridge coal mine)
Trade tensions with China have been rumbling for several months. (pictured, Chinese military police officers in Beijing on October 23)
This time they declared that a ban needed to be enforced after finding ‘a grasslike weed’ called bromus rigidus in the shipment.
Mr Littleproud said China singled out checking the lobsters after finding trace amounts of heavy metals.
‘As we understand that they have actually now imposed an inspection of all quantities, from 50 to 100 per cent, of rock lobster that’s going into China,’ he told the ABC.
‘They are saying they want to understand if there are trace elements of minerals and metals in it and we will quite clearly demonstrate, because we test before they go, that is not the case.
‘So we are asking why the action is being taken against Australian rock lobster.’
Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said China was discriminating against Australian exports and breaching the 2015 free trade agreement between the nations.
China is holding up Australian lobsters at airports as trade tensions between the two nations escalate. Pictured: A worker packs rock lobster in Perth
Tonnes of live lobsters – which are unlikely to survive a delay of more than 48 hours – have been left on airport runways. Pictured: Lobsters being loaded at Perth Airport
‘All importers should be subjected to equivalent standards and there should be no discriminatory screening practices,’ he said.
Last year 94 per cent of Australia’s $752million rock lobster exports – mostly from South Australia and Western Australia – went to China.
In August Beijing accused Australian exporters of selling wine in China at an artificially low price to stamp out competition and increase market share, a practice known as ‘dumping’.
The dumping allegations came after Chinese Ambassador Cheng Jingye made economic threats against Australian back in May.
‘It is up to the people to decide. Maybe the ordinary people will say why should we drink Australian wine? Eat Australian beef?’ he told AFR.
Following the economic threats, Australia’s barley industry was hit with crippling tariffs and arbitrary bans were also placed on the country’s four largest beef producers.
China has since enacted a freeze on all Australian thermal and coking coal shipments.
In the coming days, copper ore and concentrate, as well as sugar are set to follow.
But no official order from the Chinese government has been declared and exporter say the bans are all informal orders from the Communist Party, making the difficult situation even more complex.
‘This method could even make the conflict between China and Australia worse than the US-China trade war,’ one exporter who did not want to be named said.
Following the economic threats Chinese Ambassador Cheng Jingye, Australia’s barley industry was hit with crippling tariffs (pictured, a farmer sows barley at his property on the Darling Downs in Queensland)
In the coming days, copper ore and concentrate, as well as sugar are set to follow (pictured, a cargo ship in Tasmania is filled with timbre)
How China’s feud with Australia has escalated
2019: Australian intelligence services conclude that China was responsible for a cyber-attack on Australia’s parliament and three largest political parties in the run-up to a May election.
April 2020: Australian PM Scott Morrison begins canvassing his fellow world leaders for an inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic. Britain and France are initially reluctant but more than 100 countries eventually back an investigation.
April 15: Morrison is one of the few leaders to voice sympathy with Donald Trump’s criticisms of the World Health Organization, which the US president accuses of bias towards China.
April 21: China’s embassy accuses Australian foreign minister Peter Dutton of ‘ignorance and bigotry’ and ‘parroting what those Americans have asserted’ after he called for China to be more transparent about the outbreak.
April 23: Australia’s agriculture minister David Littleproud calls for G20 nations to campaign against the ‘wet markets’ which are common in China and linked to the earliest coronavirus cases.
April 26: Chinese ambassador Cheng Jingye hints at a boycott of Australian wine and beef and says tourists and students might avoid Australia ‘while it’s not so friendly to China’. Canberra dismisses the threat and warns Beijing against ‘economic coercion’.
May 11: China suspends beef imports from four of Australia’s largest meat processors. These account for more than a third of Australia’s $1.1billion beef exports to China.
May 18: The World Health Organization backs a partial investigation into the pandemic, but China says it is a ‘joke’ for Australia to claim credit. The same day, China imposes an 80 per cent tariff on Australian barley. Australia says it may challenge this at the WTO.
May 21: China announces new rules for iron ore imports which could allow Australian imports – usually worth $41billion per year – to be singled out for extra bureaucratic checks.
June 5: Beijing warns tourists against travelling to Australia, alleging racism and violence against the Chinese in connection with Covid-19.
June 9: China’s Ministry of Education warns students to think carefully about studying in Australia, similarly citing alleged racist incidents.
June 19: Australia says it is under cyber-attack from a foreign state which government sources say is believed to be China. The attack has been targeting industry, schools, hospitals and government officials, Morrison says.
July 9: Australia suspends extradition treaty with Hong Kong and offers to extend the visas of 10,000 Hong Kongers who are already in Australia over China’s national security law which effectively bans protest.
August 18: China launches 12-month anti-dumping investigation into wines imported from Australia in a major threat to the $6billion industry.
August 26: Prime Minster Scott Morrison announces he will legislate to stop states and territories signing deals with foreign powers that go against Australia’s foreign policy. Analysts said it is aimed at China
October 13: Trade Minister Simon Birmingham says he’s investigating reports that Chinese customs officials have informally told state-owned steelmakers and power plants to stop Aussie coal, leaving it in ships off-shore.
November 2: Agriculture Minister David Littleproud reveals China is holding up Aussie lobster imports by checking them for minerals.
November 3: Barley, sugar, red wine, logs, coal, lobster and copper will be banned from Friday.