China has suspended imports of timber from New South Wales and Western Australia after local customs officers found pests in cargoes from those states

Davies

A large truck carrying neatly piled wood logs enters a large yard with thousands of large wooden logs.

China has suspended imports of timber from New South Wales and Western Australia after local customs officers found pests in cargoes from those states, the General Administration of Customs said late on Wednesday (local time).

Key points:

  • China has already put a ban on timber imports from Victoria and Queensland, Tasmania, and South Australia
  • The Federal Government has referred China to the World Trade Organisation over the tariffs on Australian barley
  • The World Trade Organisation confirmed the launch of trade dispute consultations between Australia and China earlier this week

Local customs authorities must further strengthen inspections on timber imports from Australia, and return any cargoes found with pests, the administration office said in a statement on its website.

The ban, effective from Wednesday, came after China suspended timber shipments from some Australian states including Victoria and Queensland, Tasmania, and South Australia.

When China announced its earlier decision to ban timber exports from SA and Tasmania, it cited a similar pest problem claiming it put the ban in place to “prevent the pests entering China and to protect our country’s forestry and ecological safety”.

Relations between Canberra and Beijing are being strained, with the Federal Government referring China to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) over the tariffs on Australian barley, while restrictions have also been placed on coal, wine, meat and cotton.

It was the first time Australia has referred China to the independent umpire over an agricultural commodity.

The WTO confirmed on Monday the launch of trade dispute consultations following the complaint filed by Australia.

Earlier this month, Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said the Government would consider taking further action with the WTO if solutions on other goods could not be reached.

“We have a series of different actions that China has taken during the course of the year and each come with slightly different criteria for how you might respond at the WTO,” he said.

“The application of pressure on [markets] in the Chinese system where businesses within China are state-owned enterprises, being discouraged from purchasing Australian goods [is one].

“That is a harder point to prove.”

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