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China reveals why it suspended Australian timber exports hitting Victoria’s $260 million industry

China has finally revealed why it has indefinitely suspended Australian timber exports – and it has nothing to do with bark beetles.

The Victorian log trade to China, Australia’s biggest trading partner, is worth $260million a year.

That lucrative export is now in jeopardy with Communist China claiming bark beetles had infected the wood, with the latest drama over timber following trade disputes with Australia over barley, beef and wine.

Wang Wenbin, a spokesman from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, initially blamed the November 11 suspension of timber exports on quarantining and biosecurity issues.

China has finally revealed why it has indefinitely suspended Australian timber exports - and it has nothing to do with bark beetles. The Victorian log trade to China, Australia's biggest trading partner, is worth $260million a year. Pictured is a shipment of Tasmanian timber in Hobart

China has finally revealed why it has indefinitely suspended Australian timber exports – and it has nothing to do with bark beetles. The Victorian log trade to China, Australia’s biggest trading partner, is worth $260million a year. Pictured is a shipment of Tasmanian timber in Hobart

‘Customs has informed the Australian authorities about the situation, requiring the Australian side to improve quarantine management system for timber exported to China,’ he said.

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‘The above-mentioned measures taken by the Customs are normal biosecurity precautions, scientific and reasonable, in line with China’s relevant laws and regulations, as well as international common practice.’

Later in the same Mandarin-language media conference on Thursday, however, Mr Wang linked the timber quarantining with Foreign Minister Marise Payne in May speaking out against China’s National People’s Congress for imposing new national security laws on Hong Kong.

China’s blatant violation of democracy and freedom of speech contravened a Sino-British Joint Declaration, signed between China and the UK in 1984, that was meant to have given Hong Kong autonomy for 50 years following a 1997 handover.

Despite China clearly breaking a Hong Kong deal it had signed 36 years ago, Mr Wang blamed Australia for inflaming diplomatic tensions.

Wang Wenbin, a spokesman from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, initially blamed the November 11 suspension of timber exports on quarantining and biosecurity issues

Wang Wenbin, a spokesman from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, initially blamed the November 11 suspension of timber exports on quarantining and biosecurity issues

‘The reason for the current difficult situation in China-Australia relations is very clear,’ he said.

Australia’s biggest exports to China

Iron ore: $65billion

Education: $40billion

Business services: $28billion

Tourism: $26billion

Liquefied natural gas: $18billion

Metallurgical coal: $10billion

Thermal coal: $7billion

Source: A Westpac analysis of Australian Bureau of Statistics and Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences data for 2019

 

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‘Recently, the Australian side has openly violated basic norms of international relations, repeatedly taking wrong actions and words on issues involving China’s core interests, such as issues about Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Taiwan, and grossly interfering in China’s internal affairs.’

Senator Payne has also criticised China for interning Muslim Uighurs in concentration camps in the western Xinjiang province, in an address to the United Nations Human Rights Council. 

Other Australian senators, including crossbencher Rex Patrick and Labor foreign affairs frontbencher Penny Wong have also slammed China’s brutal treatment of Uighurs.

China is also upset that the United States, Australia’s biggest defence ally, this month sold MQ-9B drones to Taiwan.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army regularly intrudes into Taiwan’s air defence space in a bid to intimidate the democratic island.

‘Certain people on the Australian side have slandered and accused China of so-called interference and infiltration in Australia without any evidence, and have politicized, stigmatized and imposed unwarranted restrictions on normal exchanges and cooperation between China and Australia,’ Mr Wang said.

‘These practices have seriously undermined the mutual trust between the two countries, poisoned the atmosphere of bilateral relations and impeded the original good momentum of China-Australia practical cooperation.’ 

China in May slapped 80 per cent tariffs on Australian barley exports. In July, Australia suffered a 38 per cent plunge in cereal and grain exports, official Australian Bureau of Statistics trade data showed. Pictured is a Darling Downs barley farm in southern Queensland

China in May slapped 80 per cent tariffs on Australian barley exports. In July, Australia suffered a 38 per cent plunge in cereal and grain exports, official Australian Bureau of Statistics trade data showed. Pictured is a Darling Downs barley farm in southern Queensland

Chinese Customs authorities this month have also left live shipments of Australian rock lobsters to die at airports by delaying inspections.

This followed accusations from China about Australia dumping beef and wine at low prices. 

Diplomatic relations with China soured in April after Prime Minister Scott Morrison called for an independent inquiry into the causes of COVID-19, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

That month, China’s ambassador to Australia Cheng Jingye threatened Chinese boycotts of Australian beef, wine, tourism and university education. 

China in May slapped 80 per cent tariffs on Australian barley exports.

The Chinese People's Liberation Army regularly intrudes into Taiwan's air defence space in a bid to intimidate the democratic island. Pictured are Chinese soldiers celebrating the 70th anniversary of Chinese Communist Party rule in October 2019

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army regularly intrudes into Taiwan’s air defence space in a bid to intimidate the democratic island. Pictured are Chinese soldiers celebrating the 70th anniversary of Chinese Communist Party rule in October 2019

In July, Australia suffered a 38 per cent plunge in cereal and grain exports, official Australian Bureau of Statistics trade data showed.

Overall rural exports plunged by 15.1 per cent in July – the biggest monthly decline since January 1983 when Australia was also in recession.

In February 2019, a year before coronavirus came to Australia, China banned Australian coal from entering the Dalian port in the country’s north in retaliation for the 2018 ban on telecommunications equipment giant Huawei from installing 5G mobile technology. 

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