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The Australian coal flotilla stuck off the Chinese coast has swollen to more than 80 ships carrying blacklisted cargo worth more than $1.1bn, prompting the Morrison government to raise concerns about “discriminatory action”.
The Australian can also reveal coal exports to China have plunged by 96 per cent in the first three weeks of November, as a go-slow by Chinese officials crunches the nation’s second biggest export industry.
Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said reports of the growing delays had raised the government’s concerns about the trade practices China was deploying. “We are working closely with the industry as well as seeking assurances and clarity from Chinese authorities that this is not discriminatory action against Australian coal,” he said.
“We reiterate that all terms of our free-trade agreement and world trade obligations between Australia and China should be upheld and respected.”
The widening coal halt comes at a difficult time for the Morrison government, which is attempting to reduce tensions with its biggest trading partner after a seven-month spat.
Coal was the biggest export industry on a list of seven Australian products Chinese state media reported were banned in early November. There are now 82 coal vessels carrying 8.8 million tonnes of coal worth an estimated $1.1bn stuck off China, four times the number of ships known to be stranded just two weeks ago, according to industry sources. Up to 1500 seafarers are stranded on the vessels.
Australian shipments of coal have plummeted to a single shipment of 190,000 tonnes in the first three weeks of November compared with up to 5 million tonnes expected this month, sources said.
Fears are mounting over a big earnings hit and job losses at coking coal producers as prices remain at rock bottom levels of just $US100 a tonne, down from $US200 in 2019 and $US300 two years earlier.
This article first appeared on www.theaustralian.com.au
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