Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said the country is “very concerned” about reports the Chinese government has told state-owned power plants not to buy Australian thermal coal and instead buy local.
“Of course we’re very concerned by it,” McCormack told ABC radio on Friday, adding that Trade Minister Simon Birmingham and Australian diplomats are attempting to resolve the issue. “We want to make sure that our coal exports have a destination,” he added.
Beijing has taken a string of measures against Australia, including slapping an 80 percent tariff on the country’s barley exports and banning four of its largest abattoirs from sending red meat to China, after Canberra called for a global inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus. In response, the Chinese ambassador to Australia threatened a boycott, saying in April: “Maybe also the ordinary people will say why should we drink Australian wine or to eat Australian beef?”
Thermal coal is Australia’s second-largest commodity export to China, after iron ore — and the Global Times, a mouthpiece of the Chinese government, indicated that could be next in the firing line.
“China-Australia relations have ebbed because of Canberra’s incessant efforts to spearhead an independent probe of the COVID-19 outbreak in China in order to stigmatize the country,” the Global Times wrote Wednesday. “Analysts speculate that Australia’s iron ore export to China could fall victim to the rising bilateral tensions.”