China blacklists Australia in crushing blow
China has black-listed Australian coal, according to state-owned media, in a crushing new blow in the worsening trade war.
The Morrison Government is now urging Chinese authorities to immediately rule out the coal import ban.
Chinese state-owned media reported on Sunday that Australia had been "shut out" of a new coal policy that gave power plants approval to import coal without customs restrictions from every country but ours.
The exports were reportedly blacklisted at a high-powered meeting between National Development Reform and Commission and Chinese power companies on Saturday.
The Global Times reported the new policy was designed to stabilise coal prices.
The government mouthpiece also published an opinion piece blasting Australia as an "anti-China pioneer" with a "sense of anxiety" about being invaded.
"Due to its high degree of dependency on the US for security and the growing concern about the rise of China in the region, Canberra is very worried that Washington's strategic contraction will aggravate risks of it being abandoned by Uncle Sam," the op-ed read.
More than 50 vessels containing hundreds of millions of dollars worth of Australian coal were stuck anchored off Chinese ports last month as trade tensions continued between the two partners.
This followed Chinese officials issuing verbal warnings in October to companies to halt buying thermal coal from Australia.
"I urge Chinese authorities to immediately rule out these reports of what, if accurate, would appear to be the use of discriminatory practices against Australian coal," Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said.
"We reiterate that all terms of our free trade agreement and world trade obligations between Australia and China should be upheld and respected."
Australian coal exports to China were worth $14 billion in 2019.
Senator Birmingham said officials had raised concerns with Chinese counterparts and through the World Trade Organisation.
Major coal importers to China include Australia, Indonesia, Russia and Mongolia.
But Chinese government mouthpiece the Global Times wrote Mongolia and domestic producers could take a large share from Australian coal.
Institute of Energy Economy at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences director Wang Yongzhong was quoted saying Mongolia had a geographic advantage that allowed for lower transportation costs than other exporters.
"The relationship between China and Australia has been deteriorating and Australia is gradually losing the Chinese market," Mr Wang said in the article.
"Even the US and Canada could be import sources, though they are the last choices as transportation costs would be very high.
"China planned to reduce 100 million tons of coal consumption annually by 2030 to finally accomplish its carbon-neutral goal before 2060, which means fading demand in the coal market.
"An absence of Australian coal in China is actually beneficial to all other market suppliers."
The move is a further blow in the strained relationship between Australia and its largest trading partner.
China last week slapped a sixth Aussie beef exporter with trade restrictions, on top of sanctions imposed across goods in several industries including wine, seafood and barley.
Former opposition leader Bill Shorten told Today that he expects the Morrison Government will appeal to the World Trade Organisation.
Mr Shorten said Australia must try and improve relations with China but also had to diversify its markets.
"One thing we can do is we can buy a bit more Australian this Christmas when we're in the shopping aisles from wine to seafood," he said.
Originally published as China blacklists Australia in crushing blow