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The first shipment of Australian coal to China in two years arrived this week as Beijing signaled it was warming up to restoring trade relations with its former major supplier of the fossil fuel.
The news comes as the Chinese Foreign Ministry said it was ready to resume trade relations with Australia and even expand them, the Global Times reported.
The statement followed another one, from China’s commerce minister, who said earlier this week, after talks with his Australian counterpart, that bilateral relations were improving.
“At present, the economic and trade relations between the two countries are facing an important window period... the meeting is a significant step to push China and Australia economic and trade relations back on track,” Wang Wentao said, as quoted by Reuters.
Indications of China’s reconsideration of bilateral trade relations with Australia came last month when the country’s National Development and Reform Commission was reported to be discussing the idea of allowing four large Chinese coal importers to make new purchases of Australian coal this year. According to the report by Bloomberg, such imports could resume as early as April this year.
The official approval of the resumption of some coal imports from Australia came later in January, in evidence of the importance China is placing on its energy security, including from fossil fuels.
Relations between the two countries deteriorated in 2020 after the Australian government called for an international inquiry into Beijing’s handling of the initial stages of the Covid pandemic. The call led to a retaliatory ban on Australian coal imports into one of the world’s biggest consumers of the commodity.
China has put more emphasis on energy security since the autumn of 2021. Earlier this year, Beijing said it would continue to maximize the use of coal in the coming years as it caters to its energy security, despite pledges to contribute to global efforts to reduce emissions.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
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Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com