In the latest sign of a thaw in economic and diplomatic relations, Australian timber exports to China will be allowed to resume immediately after more than two years of restrictions.
The timber industry has been given the green light to restart trade, China’s ambassador to Australia Xiao Qian announced in Canberra Thursday. The trade was halted in 2020 after China said it had found pests in some shipments, but the concerns among China’s quarantine officials had been soothed after “serious study” of materials provided by Australian exporters, Xiao said.
“They have satisfied the conditions of the Chinese customs,” Xiao said. “From today on, Australian timber is going back to the Chinese market.”
The timber trade between Australia and China was worth A$1.6 billion ($1.1 billion) in the 2019-20 financial year, according to government data. Timber is the latest import which China has allowed to resume over the past few months as relations improve.
Coal exports from Australia to China restarted earlier in 2023 and Beijing announced in April that it would hold a review into prohibitive tariffs on Australian barley exports. In return, the Australian government agreed to temporarily postpone its World Trade Organization court case against China.
The lifting of timber restrictions comes after Australia’s Trade Minister Don Farrell visited Beijing and held talks with his counterpart Commerce Minister Wang Wentao last week.
The Chinese announcement Thursday was was a “great outcome” for Australia’s forestry sector, according to a statement from Farrell. “Any step towards resolving the trade impediments is welcome,” he said. He’s previously said he is hopeful that all sanctions on Australia produce will be lifted by the end of 2023.
The Chinese government imposed trade sanctions on a range of Australian goods in 2020 following a call by then-Prime Minister Scott Morrison for an international investigation into the origins of Covid-19. Relations between the countries has improved following the election of Anthony Albanese’s Labor government in May 2022.
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