China restricts Australian coal imports amid ‘deteriorating relationship’ between Canberra and Beijing

China appears to have formally restricted imports of Australian coal in favour of both local production and imports from other suppliers, in a move that threatens the $14 billion export industry.

A Monday report in Chinese state media outlet The Global Times says that China’s “top economic planner” has authorised power plants to import coal without restriction — except from Australia. China’s other suppliers include Mongolia, Indonesia and Russia, and it also produces coal domestically.

The goal is ostensibly to “stabilise coal purchase prices”. China is also looking to cut down on its coal use in the push to reduce carbon emissions in coming decades.

However, Wang Yongzhong, director of the Institute of Energy Economy at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, drew attention to the political overtones of the move.

“The relationship between China and Australia has been deteriorating and Australia is gradually losing the Chinese market,” he told the outlet.

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham has called on China to “immediately rule out the reports” of its plan to restrict Australian coal, saying that if true, they show the use of discriminatory practices against a $14 billion industry, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

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