China-Australia ties

China removes last restrictions on Australian beef imports

Agreement also signed during visit to Australia by Premier Li Keqiang to develop mine, rail and port project

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 March, 2017, 7:20pm
UPDATED : Friday, 24 March, 2017, 11:04pm

Beijing removed the last remaining restrictions on imports of Australian beef on Friday and announced early-stage plans for joint development of major mine, rail and port projects, in contrast to a growing global trend of trade protectionism.

The policies, announced during a visit to Australia by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang advance the trade relationship between the two countries at a time of rising tensions between Australia and its traditional ally, the United States.

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“I believe it is time for China and Australia to enter into an era of free trade across the board, which means that we need to have free trade between our two countries in wider areas,” Li told reporters in the Australian capital, Canberra

Australia is one of several countries trying to salvage the Trans-Pacific Partnership by encouraging China and other Asian countries to join the trade pact after US President Donald Trump abandoned the accord.

Li, the first sitting premier to visit Australia in 11 years, said China would now accept chilled beef exports from all licensed exporters.

Previously sales were limited to just 11 authorised Australian sellers.

China is already Australia’s largest trading partner, with business propelled by a wide-ranging free-trade agreement that the two countries signed in 2015.

Australia enjoys an A$50 billion trade surplus with China, most of it through exports of industrial commodities like iron ore and coal.

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The expanded access gives Australia an opportunity to take advantage of China’s decision earlier this week to suspend meat imports from Brazil, the world’s biggest exporter of beef and poultry, due to sales of rotten and salmonella-tainted meats.

“Australian exports play a major role supporting China’s growth,” Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said on Friday. “Our high-quality clean, green agricultural produce supports China’s food security.”

Turnbull and Li attended a ceremony where China State Construction Engineering Corp tentatively agreed to build a new port and rail line for a yet-to-be-approved iron ore mine in the state of Western Australia.

The memorandum of understanding is tied to a A$6 billion (US$4.6 billion) mine, rail and port project in Western Australia’s mineral-rich Pilbara region and includes privately-owned New Zealand firm BBI Group.