Coal holdups at China ports are not a ban, says Australia

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) – Australia’s Trade Minister said yesterday that while there might be some delays in the processing of coal shipments at Chinese ports, he has no reason to believe China is banning Australian coal.

Simon Birmingham told reporters in Adelaide that he did not see any problem in the relationship between the two countries. His comments followed a report a day earlier by the Reuters news agency, citing an unnamed port official, that the northern Chinese port of Dalian had banned imports of Australian coal.

Coal is one of Australia’s largest exports. The report caused the Australian dollar to briefly tumble, coal stocks to fall, and sent officials scrambling for answers.

China’s markets are vital for Australia and relations are sensitive after Australia last year blocked Chinese-owned telecommunications giant Huawei from involvement in its 5G network due to security concerns.

Birmingham said import quotas, combined with the testing of products for quality assurance, “may be slowing down the processing of coal in certain ports across China.” But he said China was applying its rules equally to all countries and wasn’t discriminating against Australia.

“I want to provide reassurance that we have no basis to believe that there is a ban on Australian coal exports into China or into any part of China,” he said.

Australia is working to clarify China’s policies and to reassure Australian coal companies, Birmingham said.

File photo shows inspection and quarantine workers taking samples of imported coal at a port in Rizhao in eastern China’s Shandong province. – AP