China’s customs authorities have told several Chinese state-owned steelmakers and power plants to stop importing Australian coal, according to news outlets. The move comes amid ongoing tensions in the relationship between China and Australia and reportedly affects both thermal and coking coal.
The trade minister, Simon Birmingham, said the government was aware of the reports and was discussing the issue with Australia’s resources industry, which had “previously faced occasional disruptions to trade flows with China.”
The Minerals Council of Australia said it was also aware of the reports but played down any extended impacts, insisting the outlook for Australian coal remained positive in the medium term.
S&P Global Platts cited several unnamed sources as saying Chinese state-owned utilities and steel mills had received the verbal notice to cease the imports.
China has taken a range of actions against Australian exporters this year, including imposing prohibitive tariffs on barley, suspending imports from five red meat processing plants and launching two trade investigations into wine.
Government figures show Australia exported $7.3 billion of coal to China in the first six months of this year, up 8% compared with the same period last year. The value of Australian exports of iron ore and concentrates to China rose 16% to $43 billion.
According to S&P Global Platts, the entities told to cease importing Australian coal included Huaneng Power International, which describes itself as one of the largest listed power producers in China, as well as Datang International Power Generation Co., Huadian Power International and Zhejiang Electric Power Co. Ltd.