Australian businesses stop exporting to China due to risk as trade tensions hit home.

Australian businesses stop exporting to China due to risk as trade tensions hit home.
Amid ongoing trade tensions between Canberra and Beijing, some Australian exporters are now so scared of having their products rejected at customs they have stopped shipping to China.
Exporter Andrew Ferguson recently had three shipments of live lobsters die in China because of lengthy delays in customs testing.

China began more stringent testing because it said high levels of cadmium had been found in some shipments.

But Mr Ferguson has questioned whether he is a casualty of escalating political tensions between the Australian and Chinese governments.

“The lobsters were out of the water too long and they died while they were waiting to be cleared,” he said.

“The cost was significant.”

He said it was too risky to continue shipping to China.

“Staff are probably my biggest stress,” he told 7.30.

“The sooner I can kick something back off and get things going again, it’ll make things better for them and we won’t lose those staff.”

Some Chinese importers have told wine, sugar, wool, copper and coal suppliers their goods will no longer clear customs either.
Amid the prolonged tensions, Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday evening said Australia would not back down on its foreign policy agenda.

“The global competition between the US and China presents new challenges,” he said in a speech to the British Policy Exchange.

“Like other sovereign nations in the Indo-Pacific, our preference is Australia is not forced into any binary choices.”

In what some may have seen as an olive branch, Mr Morrison also praised China’s economic and social growth, saying: “No country has pulled more people out of poverty”.

In a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs briefing on Tuesday, spokesman Zhao Lijian said China had “noted Prime Minister Morrison’s positive comments on the global influence of China’s economic growth and China’s poverty alleviation efforts”.

“On China-Australia relations, we hope Australia will make independent, objective, sensible choices that serve its own interests,” he said.

The Chinese embassy in Australia directed 7.30 to Mr Zhao’s briefing when asked to comment on the ongoing trade dispute.

Whether an apparent softening of tone from China will have an impact on exporters remains to be seen.

Leconfield wine marketer Damien White said he decided to postpone a $130,000 shipment to China out of fear it would be rejected, then had an order cancelled.

“It’s been a tough year for everybody and this is a bit of a nail in the coffin really,” he said.

“There needs to be some urgency around this topic.

“We need some answers and we need some official responses from Government so we understand what the direction is.”

Earlier this year, Australian barley was hit with a hefty tariff, some beef exports were banned and an anti-dumping probe was launched into 10 wine companies.

Research director at Perth USAsia, Jeffrey Wilson, said the economic impact of the dispute was mounting.

Trade data shows 94 per cent of Australia’s timber and lobster shipments, 76 per cent of wool and 71 per cent of cotton exports go to China.

“But the reality is there’s been a number of difficulties and irritants in the Australia-China relationship that have been brewing over many years, including issues of Chinese foreign interference in Australia, its militarisation of the South China Sea, and a number of human rights abuses as well.”
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