China all but confirms Aussie products ban
China has all but confirmed its trade war with Australia days after dismissing allegations of a targeted ban as "rumour".
Earlier in the week, the Chinese government dismissed claims of a discriminatory ban that is likely to cost Australia billions of dollars a year. But on Thursday, The Global Times, a Chinese state-run publication, reported the visit of Australia's ambassador to China, Graham Fletcher "came after China halted seven categories of Australian goods from the market."
The Global Times made the claim in an article titled 'Australia nervous at losing Chinese market'.
Mr Fletcher was in Shanghai to attend the China International Import Expo, a key annual event for Australian traders.
On the eve of the expo, a shipment of Australian wine was blocked at customs, furthering concerns of exporters and the federal government that an orchestrated ban was underway.
The move came days after $2 million worth of live Australian rock lobster sat on a tarmac in Shanghai for four days after the Chinese government claimed it did not meet import guidelines.
The Global Times' article claimed the lobster ban had "sent shockwaves to Australia" and cited Professor Chen Hong, who was banned from entering Australia earlier this year, as saying, "There is no substitute for the Chinese market for Australia. But for Chinese people, Australian goods have many alternatives."
The state media reporting came after Chinese President Xi Jinping announced his plan to bring "more positive energy" to the global trade market.
"Faced with the challenges brought by economic globalisation, we must not allow unilateralism or protectionism to undermine the international order and international rules," President Xi said via a video address to the Expo on Wednesday.
Federal Trade Minister Simon Birmingham has since issued a statement seeking further information, saying the "uncertain and inconsistent messages from China" are "heightening risks and undermine the statements made by President Xi [Jinping] at this year's China International Import Expo."
Senator Birmingham continued, "If China is to be true to the statements of its Government then it should provide confidence that normal customs and related processes will apply to imports of goods such as seafood and wine."
One Australian wine-seller at the expo who asked not to be named told The Australian, "Everyone is in the freak-out zone."
Earlier this year, the Chinese government announced an investigation into a number of Australia's key exports and imposed an 80 per cent tariff on barley.
Originally published as China all but confirms Aussie ban as export stalemate heats up