The fierce trade war threatens to thaw as China imports Australian coal for the first time in years

China is scrambling to mend ties with Australia by allowing our coal to be imported for the first time since 2020

  • China will allow Australian coal imports for the first time since 2020
  • Customs officials in Guangdong gave the go-ahead for the shipments to clear customs
  • The first batch of coal is expected to arrive in China later this month
  • The development marks a thawing of relations, but other limitations remain

China will allow imports of Australian coal for the first time in nearly two years as the fierce trade war between the two countries begins to melt.

Customs officials in the coastal province of Guangdong on Thursday allowed Australian coal shipments to clear, just days after state-owned companies in China were given the green light to place the order.

The move marks a significant shift in trade relations between the two countries as Australian coal makes its way to the Chinese coast for the first time since 2020 after a standoff with the former government led by Scott Morrison.

The catalyst for the breakdown in ties can be traced to Morrison’s government for an independent inquiry into the origins of Covid-19.

China will allow Australian coal imports after nearly two years in a symbolic attempt to restore ties (pictured left Chinese President Xi Jinping with the President of the Philippines).

China will allow Australian coal imports after nearly two years in a symbolic attempt to restore ties (pictured left Chinese President Xi Jinping with the President of the Philippines).

The first shipment is expected to arrive as early as this month as China looks for ways to rebuild its economy after being hit by the pandemic, reports The Australian.

China was careful never to announce an official ban on Australian coal, but imports fell 85 percent in 2021, with the country importing coal from the United States, Indonesia and Russia instead.

Despite the development, China will maintain restrictions on wine, barley and lobster, which were put in place after a safety pact was signed by the US, Britain and Australia.

There is hope these bans will be lifted after four Chinese energy companies start buying Australian coal from April 1.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Chinese President Xi Jinping first met in November last year, while Penny Wong recently met her counterpart Wang Yi, who met in China’s capital Beijing in December.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (pictured with his partner Jodie Haydon) and Chinese President Xi Jinping met for the first time in November last year

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (pictured with his partner Jodie Haydon) and Chinese President Xi Jinping met for the first time in November last year

But China’s ambassador to Australia, Xiao Qian, has warned that if Australia sticks to US military deals, everything could collapse, with devastating effects on local jobs.

“If that happens, it will not serve the interests of Australians,” he said. “Perhaps it serves the interests of other countries.”

China has reportedly offered to end the trade war if Australia withdraws its complaints to the World Trade Organization over bans on certain goods.

But that offer now appears to be the subject of Chinese concerns about Australia’s military build-up through a proposed $70 billion nuclear submarine fleet and a $558 million deal to buy the HIMARS missile launchers.

The first shipment of Australian coal is expected to arrive on the Chinese coast this month (pictured is the Blair Athol mine in Moranbah, Queensland).

The first shipment of Australian coal is expected to arrive on the Chinese coast this month (pictured is the Blair Athol mine in Moranbah, Queensland).

An influential government-run Chinese newspaper this week warned Australia not to pull out or face dire consequences.

“We still have reservations about lifting sanctions on Australia,” read an editorial in China’s Defense Times.

“Although China and Australia have resumed dialogue, the Australian government has not shown the full sincerity that we would like to really want to improve relations.

“On the contrary, she has become more and more cooperative [with the US] at the military level. The US wants to contain China’s ambitions in the Asia-Pacific region.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese met Chinese President Xi Jinping in November, and Secretary of State Penny Wong met her counterpart in Beijing last month

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese met Chinese President Xi Jinping in November, and Secretary of State Penny Wong met her counterpart in Beijing last month

“The US always wants to station missiles, bombers and other weapons in Australia.

“The Australian government’s move undoubtedly damages already fragile China-Australia relations.”

Stressing that the outlook is still optimistic, Ambassador Xiao hailed the Chinese New Year of the Rabbit as a chance to “jump over obstacles and have good luck.”

He said attitudes in Australia had changed “from falling behind to stability and from stability maybe to improvement and even development”.

He added, “I hope that by improving our relations, we will have more encouragement for Chinese companies to come back.” [to buying from Australia].’

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Emma Colton

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