China suspends imports from four abattoirs

China has suspended imports from four Australian abattoirs in an escalation of trade tensions between the two nations.

The suspension comes days after China announced plans to slap an 80 per cent tariff on Australian barley.

China is Australia’s number one market for beef by volume, accounting for about 30 per cent of exports.

The Australian Meat Industry Council has put the suspension down to labelling issues.

“While not desirable, we have dealt with issues of this nature before and are working closely with the commonwealth,” chief executive Patrick Hutchinson said.

“This is a trade and market access issue that is being led by the commonwealth.”

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham found out about the import bans late on Monday.

“We are concerned that the suspensions appear to be based on highly technical issues, which in some cases date back more than a year,” he told AAP.

“I’ve been speaking with industry leaders, colleagues and departments overnight to formulate a comprehensive response. 

“We will work with industry and authorities in both Australia and China to seek to find a solution that allows these businesses to resume their normal operations as soon as possible.”

Diplomatic relations between Australia and China have rapidly deteriorated after Prime Minister Scott Morrison began pushing for a global inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus.

Earlier this month, Beijing’s ambassador warned Chinese people would reconsider buying Australian beef if Mr Morrison continued calling for the investigation.

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