Australia calm in face of Chinese changes to iron ore inspection

Australia’s trade minister has welcomed potential changes to China’s inspection procedures and rules relating to iron ore shipments, a move which has been described as ‘another implicit warning to Australia’ by a Chinese research fellow.

China’s customs authorities issued a notice over new supervising rules taking effect from 1 June, which will oblige customs officials to inspect iron ore at the request of the trader or importer as opposed to the current system of mandatory on-site inspections.

Responding to the notice, trade minister Simon Birmingham said:“Early indications talking to the industry are … that this would provide an opportunity for benefits both to China and to Australia.

“We welcome any improvements in administrative arrangements that could streamline the customs clearance of iron ore imports.”

However, China’s Global Times newspaper warned that Australian iron ore imports could be damaged by worsening political tensions between Canberra and Beijing, after Australia became the first nation to ask for an independent inquiry into the outbreak of COVID-19 in China.

“This is another implicit warning to Australia,” Yu Lei, a chief research fellow at the Research Center for Pacific Island Countries at Liaocheng University, told the Chinese Communist party-run paper.

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

Australia is China’s largest source of iron ore, accounting for 62% of the country’s imports, and China is Australia’s largest single trade partner – comprising 26% of the latter’s total worldwide exports.