Beijing has claimed to be unaware of a ban on Australian coal that was revealed by China’s state-controlled media.
The blacklisting of Australia’s $14bn annual coal exports to China was all-but-formalised at a high level meeting with major Chinese power companies held on Saturday to address a surge in coal prices in the world’s second biggest economy.
At the meeting the National Development Reform and Commission – China’s top economic planning agency – gave approval for clearance restrictions to be removed from coal imports from all countries except Australia, according to reports by state-controlled media. China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said he was “not aware” of the ban, which has been widely reported throughout China and the world.
In Beijing’s first comments on the ban, Mr Wang accused Australia of casting itself as a “victim, pointing an accusing finger at China.” “This move is meant to confound the public and we will never accept it,” Mr Wang said at a regular press conference in Beijing on Tuesday evening.
Those comments were said hours after Prime Minister Scott Morrison said discriminatory action on Australian coal exports would “obviously be in breach” of World Trade Organisation rules and the China-Australia FTA.
The nation’s top miners on Tuesday held crisis talks over the escalating trade tensions with China, as ship owners holding black-listed Australian coal off the Chinese coast threaten legal action over the mounting costs of a ban that has crunched the nation’s second biggest export industry.