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hastings bulk carrier coal ships shipping iron ore newcastle

Coal ships wait to be loaded at the world's biggest coal export terminal in Newcastle, located north of Sydney in this March 11, 2007 file photograph: REUTERS/David Gray

China Lifts Unofficial Ban on Australian Coal

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March 14, 2023

By Bloomberg News (Bloomberg) —

China will allow all domestic companies to import Australian coal, signaling an end to trade restrictions imposed in late 2020.

Ports and customs offices have been told to allow the cargoes, according to people familiar with the decision, who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public. Earlier this year, authorities gave four major importers permission to resume purchases of Australian coal, which began shipping in January. 

The National Development and Reform Commission, China’s economic planning agency, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

High-quality Australian coal is much sought after by China’s steelmakers and power plants. Imports could reach 1 million tons in the first half of March alone, according to China’s top coal lobbying group. China is the world’s biggest producer and consumer and its imports of the fuel exceeded 290 million tons last year.

Major Consumer

Australian coal mining stocks, including Yancoal Australia Ltd. and New Hope Corp., narrowed losses after the news. Chinese coking coal futures extended declines.

China had been a major consumer of Australian coal before implementing its unofficial ban as political hostilities escalated between the two countries. Australian leaders have said ending the ban would be a key step in restoring ties between the nations.

The thaw in relations between the two countries comes as a welcome development for Australian exporters of other commodities hit by a raft of restrictions, including lobster, beef, barley and wine.

Australian lobster exporters aren’t seeing the same obstacles from Chinese authorities that were previously in place, Australia’s Agriculture Minister Murray Watt said at a conference in Canberra last week. And there are early signs that impediments to beef and dairy shippers are also beginning to ease, he said.

–With assistance from Dan Murtaugh and Keira Wright.

© 2023 Bloomberg L.P.

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