The South China Morning Post cited multiple trade sources on Monday to say China's customs is delaying imports of lobster from Australia, and is further expected to impose bans on Australian imports of copper ore, copper concentrate, and sugar at some point this week - at a moment relations between the two countries have hit the lowest point in decades. This after last week a ban was placed on some timber and barely shipments, commonly used in animal fodder and beer production, already partially banned since September 1.
Further Australia's Seafood Trade Advisory Group noted that some Australian lobster shipments have been subject of increased import inspections once arriving in China, causing most exporters to temporarily halt their shipments there until more is known. Local media reports have said in at least one instance tons of premium shellfish were left on a Chinese airport tarmac.
Australia’s agriculture minister David Littleproud said he has "serious concerns" over reports of what appears the unnecessary excuse of inspectors checking for trace elements of minerals and metals (given it's already tested upon leaving Australia) and questioned why such actions are being taken.
Crucially, China accounts for 94% of Australian rock lobster exports, estimated at over half a billion dollars in 2018-2019. Imports of premium shellfish only stay fresh for three days unless quickly put into holding tanks. Barley was also recently hit with tariffs while wine was subject of additional stringent import procedures.
Australia's Trade Ministry is protesting the delays and significant rumors of further import bans, with Trade Minister Simon Birmingham urging "Chinese authorities should rule out the use of any such discriminatory actions." In the Monday statement he said that all importers must be treated equally.
This also as the government probes both China's suspension of imports of Australian coal and possibly fiber used by Chinese cotton mills.
"So far as any industry concerns imply a breach of World Trade Organisation or China-Australia Free Trade Agreement commitments, Chinese authorities should rule out the use of any such discriminatory actions," Birmingham said.
Via Trading Economics: Australia exports to China was US$103 Billion during 2019, according to the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has recently slammed Australia's biggest trading partner as practicing blatant "economic coercion" with regard to an increasing array of its exports. This following political leaders over the summer spotlighting Beijing for its role and neglect in the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Things took a more intense turn when Beijing recently began discouraging tourists and students from visiting Australia, also as China detained some high profile Aussie media figures working in the country.
Prior to the pandemic, Chinese travelers made up by far the largest source of tourism for Australia, according to one industry report accounting for $12.4 billion of the $45.4 billion tourism brought into to the country each year.