Hot on the heels of the action China has taken to curb Australian imports of beef and barley into the country, comes an announcement that the global superpower is changing customs protocols regarding the import of iron ore.
The change in regulations are being viewed in some circles as a simple exercise in efficiency, while others are viewing the change as a little more sinister.
China currently imports approximately 60 per cent of its iron ore from Australia with companies like BHP, Fortescue and Rio Tinto the main beneficiaries of an industry that is worth over 60 billion a year to the Australian economy.
On the surface the changes being made by the Chinese don’t appear too drastic but as Sydney Morning Herald columnist Elizabeth Knight speculates if the Chinese “abandon the traditional practice of having all shipments inspected by customs and move to a system whereby Chinese customers can ask for an inspection. The potential problem for Australian exporters is that their shipments could be targeted for inspection when Brazil, China’s other major iron ore supplier, may not.”
State newspaper takes strong stance
The change in policy has not been met with much reaction by Australia’s major iron ore producers or the Trade Minister, Simon Birmingham. But the shift in policy was accompanied by an apparent warning in the Chinese Daily, The Global Times who wrote, “It seems the Australian government has no intention of sowing new troubles in its trade with China, but the possibility of deteriorating tensions escalating into a trade war should not be ignored.
“Given the principles of free trade and reciprocity to which China has long adhered, there are reasons to believe that China will not take the initiative to start a trade war so long as no party deliberately escalates tensions further. However, we hope the Australian [government] can release more goodwill and take more measures to repair its relationship with [its] largest trading partner China.”
The editorial in the state-run paper comes in the wake of the newspaper describing Australia as a ‘loyal attack dog’ of the United States, a position which hardly bodes well for friendly interactions.