China lifts ban on Aussie beef – $20 billion in exports now back on track

China has lifted bans on Australian beef exporters, removing almost all of the $20 billion worth of trade sanctions it imposed, ahead of a high-level visit to Canberra.


May 30, 2024, updated May 30, 2024
Shipping containers at Port Botany, Sydney, Thursday, August 4, 2022. (AAP Image/James Gourley) NO ARCHIVING

Shipping containers at Port Botany, Sydney, Thursday, August 4, 2022. (AAP Image/James Gourley) NO ARCHIVING


Agriculture Minister Murray Watt said Beijing lifted the bans on Wednesday night, with immediate effect, for five different abattoirs.

“That is fantastic news for the cattle producers, for the meat processing industry and for the workers in those industries,” he told a parliamentary hearing on Thursday.

Minister for Agriculture Murray Watt
Minister Murray Watt says the move comes from work done to stabilise the relationship with China. (Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS)
“The work that we’ve done to stabilise our relationship with China is paying real dividends.”

Sanctions remain on two abattoirs and rock lobster.

The announcement precedes Chinese Premier Li Qiang’s high-level talks with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese next month.

Mr Li is expected to arrive in Canberra in mid-June.

Beijing slapped sanctions on Australia in 2020 at the height of a diplomatic spat between the two countries, after the former Morrison government called for an independent inquiry into the origin of COVID-19.

China has progressively removed the trade barriers on Australian exports since Labor came to office in 2022.

Opposition immigrations spokesman Dan Tehan welcomed the lift on trade sanctions as a continuity of approach between the former Liberal government and the current administration.

“It shows that China understands that the trade sanctions that they put in place against Australia didn’t work,” he told ABC radio.

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“China’s finally realised that this was hurting them and not us, and it’s an absolute credit to our exporters – the way they’re able to diversify into other markets.”

With renewed access to Australia’s largest trading partner, producers of barley, cotton, oaten hay and timber have had their exports swell by more than $3 billion over the past year and a bit.

Chinese trade tariffs.
Australia hopes more trade tariffs will be lifted on its products by China. (Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS)
The $3 billion figure does not include increased earnings from the resumption of wine sales to China, after Beijing dropped a tax of 220 per cent on Australian wine in March.

In 2019, Australian wine exports to China were worth $1.1 billion.

Even if all tariffs are eventually lifted, it is unlikely Australian trade with China will fully return to pre-COVID levels.

Impacted sectors have looked to diversify their export markets since the overnight drop in sales highlighted the pitfalls of placing all one’s eggs in one basket.

China accounted for 43 per cent of all Australian exports at the time, but that figure had dropped below 30 per cent in 2022-23.

The government has helped producers expand their access to growing and emerging overseas markets, with $198.2 million in grants targeted at re-orienting the nation’s trade.

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