China has blocked Australian meat exports amidst an escalation of trade tensions between the two. Three billion dollars’ worth of meat are exported from Australia to China every year.
China Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said customs officers have seen suspicious violations of health inspection by a “few” Australian beef companies. Beijing has attempted to convey their message that blocking the exports is related to food labelling and health certificate issues and not the Australian Prime Minister’s calls for an inquiry into the role China played in the origins of coronavirus.
“China has decided to suspend effectively immediately, processing four Australian companies’ import declarations for meat products,” Mr Zhao said. “The Chinese side has asked the Australian side to conduct a thorough investigation to find the cause and address the issue.”
The four meatworks named are JBS Dinmore, JBS Beef City, Kilcoy and Northern Cooperative Meat Company which together account for around 35% of Australian beef exports.
Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said, “it’s disappointing that no notification was given prior to that suspension taking effect,” acknowledging that a decision based on technical issues, some identified more than a year ago, should have come to the government’s attention earlier.
Mr Birmingham maintained that Australia’s push for a global inquiry is not connected with the nations’ economic and trade arrangements and the two should be taken in isolation. “We certainly don’t see any relationship and we would expect that no other counterpart country should see a relationship between those factors either,” he said.