Australia welcomes reports of China interest in its coal
SYDNEY, Jan 6 (Reuters) - Australia's treasurer on Friday welcomed reports that China may soon resume buying the country's coal after two years of effective trade bans, but called for a relaxation of import restrictions that have affected several industries.
After relations between the countries hit a low point in 2020, top diplomats from Beijing and Canberra have reopened dialogue in recent months, and China's state planner has let some government-backed utilities and its top steelmaker resume coal imports from Australia.
China Energy Investment Corp has already placed an import order, one of the first deals, Reuters reported.
"We haven't seen any confirmation of that but that would be an incredibly welcome development were it to occur," Treasurer Jim Chalmers told reporters, asked about Chinese interest in Australian coal.
"It would be in the interests of both countries to see these trade restrictions lifted," Chalmers added.
Australia was China's second-largest coal supplier before the ban, which followed a souring of diplomatic relations.
The diplomatic freeze, which peaked as Australia joined global criticism of China's handling of COVID-19, ultimately resulted in restrictions by Beijing on several Australian exports from seafood to wine.
The restrictions had affected tens of billions of Australian dollars worth of exports, impacting entire industries, Chalmers said on Friday.
"A lot of the other industries which are impacted by these trade restrictions will be watching very closely what if anything happens when it comes to coal."
(Reporting by Byron Kaye; Editing by Kim Coghill)
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