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China halts beef imports from Australian abattoirs as COVID-19 trade tensions escalate

China has dealt Australia’s agricultural industry a second blow in 48 hours, just weeks after the Chinese ambassador to Australia made veiled threats Australian trade may suffer if the government pushed ahead with a probe into the origins of coronavirus.

As tipped on the Rumour File, China has suspended imports from four Australian abattoirs.

It comes after China earlier this week announced a plan to introduce an 80 per cent tariff on Australian barley imports.

Research Director at the Perth US-Asia Centre, Dr Jeffrey Wilson, said the measures will likely cost the Australian economy $2 billion, and it’s no coincidence they come after Chinese ambassador to Australia, Cheng Jingye, threatened a boycott of Australian products.

“The Chinese ambassador to Australia published an op-ed in an Australian newspaper saying that China was very upset about Australia’s position on a proper investigation into coronavirus. It intimated a veiled threat that a number of Australian products … the trade in those might be under threat,” Dr Wilson said.

“What we’ve seen in the last couple of days is that promise has been made good on.

“It’s disingenuous to suggest that it was just routine business.”

The Chinese government says the barriers to Australian imports are routine trade measures, citing Australian barley farmers flooding the Chinese market with below cost barley and biosecurity issues as the reason for the import changes.

But Dr Wilson said that doesn’t add up.

“If you look at some of the things that have been alleged … that Australian barley farmers were selling barley below cost into the Chinese market during a period of drought, when our grain farmers were struggling horribly, it just doesn’t stack up,” he said.

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Trade Minister fires back at Chinese ambassador over economic boycott threat