China lifts ban on five Australian beef exporters

FILE PHOTO: Illustration shows printed Chinese and Australian flags

SYDNEY (Reuters) -China has lifted its import bans on five major Australian beef producers effective immediately, the Australian government said on Thursday, in the latest sign of improving relations between Canberra and Beijing.

Australia and China, its largest trading partner, are rebuilding ties after a period of strained relations which hit a low in 2020 after Canberra called for an independent investigation into the origin of COVID-19.

Australia is one of China's top suppliers of beef but volumes have plunged after diplomatic relations soured, even as Beijing bought larger quantities of beef overall.

China suspended some Australian beef factories from its market in 2020, citing labelling irregularities and other technical issues.

"We continue to press China to remove the remaining trade impediments, including for Australia's rock lobster industry," Foreign Minister Penny Wong, Trade Minister Don Farrell and Agriculture Minister Murray Watt said in a joint statement.

Eight beef processing facilities have now had suspensions lifted, while two facilities remain suspended, the statement said.

Beijing had also imposed tariffs on billions of dollars' worth of Australian commodity imports, most of which have been lifted since a change of government in Canberra two years ago.

Trade impediments imposed by China before the May 2022 election hit Australian exports worth A$20.6 billion ($13.6 billion), according to the Australian government.

($1 = 1.5126 Australian dollars)

(Reporting by Renju Jose in Sydney; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Michael Perry)