China amends inspections of iron ore imports as trade tensions with Australia rise

Source:Global Times Published: 2020/5/20 19:38:40

File photo: An FMG iron ore mining site in Australia Photo: cnsphoto

China's General Administration of Customs (GAC) said on Wednesday that it will streamline the inspection procedure for imported iron ore at Chinese ports to facilitate trade.  

According to the new supervising rules, which takes effect on June 1, customs officials will inspect iron ore at the request of the trader or the importer. Previously, customs officers conducted mandatory on-site inspections of iron ore batch by batch. 

When necessary, Chinese customs officers will conduct test for harmful and toxic elements in imported iron ore, according to the new rules.

The announcement comes at a delicate time when the China-Australia relations have ebbed because of Canberra's incessant efforts to spearhead an independent probe of the Covid-19 outbreak in China in order to stigmatize the country. China said that the virus, like MERS and SARS, was jumped to humans from a host animal, and was not made in a lab. 

Analysts speculate that Australia's iron ore export to China could fall victim to the rising bilateral tensions. China-Australian iron ore trade was worth $63 billion in 2019. 

China has largely suspended imports of Australian beef due to quality issues. China also slapped an 80-percent tariff on Australian barley imports on Monday after an 18-month antidumping and anti-subsidy probe. 

"This is another implicit warning to Australia," said Yu Lei, a chief research fellow at the Research Center for Pacific Island Countries at Liaocheng University.

"It is associated with how Australia has acted, and a general decline in demand for steel on the global level," Yu said.

Industry insiders estimated that about 62 percent of China's iron ore imports come from Australia.

In 2019, China imported 1.07 billion tons of iron ore, with 665 million tons coming from Australia and 229 million tons from Brazil, according to data provided to the Global Times by the Beijing Lange Steel Information Research Center, an industry consultancy.

An iron ore trader at Lianyungang Port, a major port in East China's Jiangsu Province where iron ore accounts for half the throughput, said that the new rule is an optimizing import procedure and there won't be any discrimination against iron ore from Australia.

"I see it as a value-added service that will improve efficiency and inventory turnover at ports," the trader told the Global Times on condition of anonymity.

On-site inspection includes the detection of radioactivity, sundries and solid waste, according to the GAC.


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