China reportedly resumes timber imports from Australia in sign of warming bilateral ties
Published: May 18, 2023 09:07 PM
Workers process timber at a factory in Guannan county, East China's Jiangsu Province on Monday. The county has been accelerating industrial upgrading to transform itself from a base of processing primary commodities to high-end products. The annual sales of the local timber processing industry have exceeded 4 billion yuan ($621 million). Photo: cnsphotos

Workers process timber at a factory in Guannan county, East China's Jiangsu Province. Photo: cnsphoto

Troubled China-Australia relations are showing further signs of thaw, as China has reportedly resumed importing Australian timber, said a Chinese senior official, a move that experts said shows the two countries are solving their disputes on the basis of equality and mutual respect. 

According to a report by ABC News, China's Ambassador to Australia Xiao Qian confirmed during an interview that Chinese customs has formally notified the Australian minister of agriculture that China will resume imports of Australian timber starting from Thursday.

Xiao said that this is a conclusion reached after a serious study based on the materials provided by the Australian side, and that the quarantine of Australian timber has satisfied the conditions of Chinese customs. 

Australia's $600 million timber trade with China began to plunge in 2020 as a result of quarantine problems. According to media reports, Australia's timber exports to China dropped to 42 million yuan ($5.97 million) in 2020, compared with about 4 billion yuan in 2019.

China and Australia are important economic and trade partners, with highly complementary economic and trade structures, said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin during a press conference on Thursday. 

He also said that economic and trade cooperation between the two countries is mutually beneficial. China is willing to work with Australia to adhere to mutual respect and win-win cooperation, and jointly promote the stability and development of bilateral relations.

According to a report by Sky News, Australian Treasurer Jim Chalmers also said that returning to normal trading arrangements with China was in the "interests of both countries."

The resumption of Australian timber imports by China is a "progressive step" toward the warming of bilateral relations, Chen Hong, director of the Australian Studies Center at East China Normal University, told the Global Times on Thursday.

"It shows that bilateral relations are steadily improving. Some of the disputes between China and Australia are being resolved on the basis of equality and mutual respect on both sides," Chen said.

Chen expects more disputes will be resolved through consultation, and some new areas of trade and economic cooperation between China and Australia will continue to develop. 

"After all, China is Australia's largest trading partner, and the economies of the two countries are highly complementary," Chen said.

Trade between China and Australia has been picking up since last year. Australia's exports to China surged to record highs in March boosted by surging coal and iron ore trade. In the first quarter of this year, bilateral trade surged by 10.9 percent to $59 billion, Chinese customs data showed.

Australia's metal ore and thermal coal led the shipment surge to the Chinese mainland, with iron ore up 24.3 percent month-on-month and fine iron ore up 17.7 percent. Shipments of thermal coal surged 125.4 percent.

In April, the Australian government agreed to suspend its appeal to the WTO over Chinese government's tariffs on Australian barley.