New Chinese customs inspections on Australian iron ore imports symbolise yet another “implicit warning” to Prime Minister Scott Morrison as trade tensions continue to escalate.
Chinese customs officials say the changes taking effect next month are designed to streamline procedures at ports.
But the Global Times - considered a media voice of the Chinese government - has warned Australian iron ore imports could be hurt by political tensions between the two countries.
"This is another implicit warning to Australia," Yu Lei, a chief research fellow at Liaocheng University, told the newspaper.
"It is associated with how Australia has acted, and a general decline in demand for steel on the global level."
However, it is understood the changes could in fact speed up the entry of iron ore into China, in line with a commitment made by Chinese President Xi Jinping to further open up his economy.
Australian iron ore is already checked and it is possible fewer batches would be checked under the new arrangements.
"Early indications of talking to the industry are indeed that this would provide an opportunity for benefits both to China and to Australia," Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said on Thursday.
"We welcome any improvements in administrative arrangements that could streamline the customs clearance of iron ore imports."
Iron ore is Australia's largest global export, with exports to China - our largest trading partner - bringing in $63 billion last year.
Minerals Council of Australia chief executive Tania Constable echoed Senator Birmingham's comments, saying Australian iron ore was helping China's economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
Labor frontbencher Joel Fitzgibbon has urged the government to soothe relations with China, lashing the coalition for demonising Australia's biggest trading partner.
A deepening diplomatic row has reached fever pitch with Beijing furious about Canberra's push for a global coronavirus inquiry.
Australia sparked a diplomatic spat with China after calling for a global coronavirus inquiry.
China has since slapped an 80 per cent tariff on Australian barley and suspended imports from four major abattoirs.
The World Health Assembly has adopted a resolution to establish an independent coronavirus inquiry with the support of 137 nations.
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