CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — China has lifted import bans on three Australian meat suppliers in another sign of improving trade relations between the two countries, Australian officials said Tuesday.
China's customs agency announced overnight it was removing bans on imports of beef and mutton from Australian plants of JBS, a global foods company, and from the Australian Lamb Company, both in Victoria state. Also from Teys Australia in South Australia state, a government statement said.
China had banned imports of red meats from 11 Australian abattoirs since 2020, citing cases of COVID-19 among staff and incorrectly labeled products. The bans were seen as part of various official and unofficial trade barriers China imposed to punish Australia over policies that included calling for an independent inquiry into the origins of and responses to the pandemic.
China still bans meat from the other eight Australian slaughter houses. Australian officials were working toward resolving "technical impediments to trade," the government statement said
Acting Prime Minister Richard Marles said that resuming meat exports to China was another step toward stabilizing bilateral relations since the government headed by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese was elected last year.
"I'm not going to venture predictions going forward, but we will keep on the path that we are currently on, which does seek to stabilize the relationship with China," Marles, who is standing in for Albanese while he is on vacation, told reporters.
China has lifted most of its punitive trade barriers, which cost Australian exporters 20 billion Australian dollars ($14 billion) a year at their peak, since Australia's government changed.
Last month, Albanese made the first visit by an Australian leader to China in seven years in a sign of both how low relations had fallen and how they have begun to stabilize.
But last month, the two governments also clashed over an Australian allegation that a Chinese warship's unsafe use of sonar off Japan had caused ear injuries to at least one Australian navy diver. Albanese said the incident had damaged relations.
China denied the warship caused any injury and accused Australia of making "reckless and irresponsible accusations."
Marles described the relationship with China as complex.
"With the one hand we've got our largest trading partner and on the other we've got our most significant security anxiety," Marles said.
"But for all those reasons, it's important that we do diplomacy excellently," he said.