Canberra is investigating reports Beijing ordered its state-owned enterprises to stop buying Australian coal, stoking fears that trade tensions between the countries were rising.
But analysts cautioned that the unconfirmed reports of a coal ban may reflect efforts by China to prop up its own domestic coal industry rather than a deepening political dispute with Australia.
Beijing has reportedly issued a verbal communication to state-owned energy companies and steel mills to immediately stop importing Australian coal — a potentially crushing blow to the country’s A$55bn ($39bn) a year coal export industry.
China has already imposed sanctions on barley, beef and wine imports following a sharp deterioration in diplomatic relations linked to Canberra’s call for an inquiry into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic in Wuhan.
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