China has lifted an import ban on Australian timber, Beijing’s ambassador said Thursday, as once-frosty ties between the two countries thaw.
Xiao Qian told reporters in Canberra that China would resume imports of Australian timber as of Thursday after Beijing clamped down on the trade in 2020.
“Yesterday, the Chinese Customs have formally notified the Australian Minister of Agriculture that starting from today, China will resume import of Australian timber,” Xiao said at a press conference in Canberra.
The resumption of the trade of logs, worth about Au$600 million (US$400 million) a year according to government data, came amid improving relations between the countries, he said.
“There are also other issues on the table that allow me to say that the momentum is positive.”
Last week, the two countries’ trade ministers met face-to-face for the first time since 2019, as the centre-left Australian government aimed to repair a relationship that had grown tense under the previous administration.
Australia’s largest trading partner blocked the import of the country’s timber in 2020, citing the discovery of pests on shipments of wood.
But it was among a slew of Australian commodities hit with import bans and restrictions, including coal, barley and wine, as diplomatic relations between Beijing and Canberra soured during the height of the pandemic.
China had been angered by Australia’s legislation against overseas influence operations, its barring of Huawei from 5G contracts and its call for an independent investigation into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic.
But relations appear to have warmed since Australia’s centre-left government adopted a less confrontational approach to China following its election a year ago.
Australian Treasurer Jim Chalmers welcomed the resumption of the timber trade and said his government had long called for the removal of Chinese restrictions.
“It’s a crucially important market for us. We want to stabilise the relationship, and any progress in lifting these trade restrictions is welcome,” Chalmers said.