Customs at China’s northern port of Dalian banned the importation of coal from Australia on Friday which triggered a sell-off of the Australian Dollar. Coal is Australia’s biggest export revenue earner and the dollar dropped more than 1% to as low as US$70.86 after the news came out.
The five harbors under Dalian customs – Dalian, Bayuquan, Panjin, Dandong and Beiliang – will no longer accept Australian coal. Coals from Russia and Indonesia will be cleared by customs.
No reason was given for the ban and when asked if the move was related to bilateral tensions, China’s foreign ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang said customs were inspecting and testing coal imports for safety and quality:
“The goals are to better safeguard the legal rights and interests of Chinese importers and to protect the environment.”
Geng added that the move was “completely normal”.
However he denied that there had been an outright ban on Australian coal “I would like to clarify those reports are false”.
Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said that he has spoken with Australia’s ambassador in Beijing:
“I’m aware of unconfirmed and unsourced media reports and have asked our Ambassador in Beijing to urgently clarify their veracity.
“We continue to engage closely with industry on matters of market access … China is a valued partner of Australia and we trust that our free trade agreement commitments to each other will continue to be honored.”
During the most recent senate hearing, Senator Birmingham discouraged people from believing that the situation was the result of diplomatic tensions between the two countries:
“People, when some of these administrative issues come up, do seek to jump to conclusions sometimes and I would always urge against that. There can be a lot of administrative reasons, other issues of domestic policy or the like that may be factors as well.”
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade first assistant secretary Graham Fletcher said the importation ban could be related to domestic supply issues in China:
“These are unsourced unconfirmed reports from individuals who are not quoting their names. The uncertainty out there is having a real impact.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson