China's Dalian port bans Australian coal imports, sets 2019 quota

Asia shares steady after Fed minutes, Aussie rallies

Last month, Australia barred Chinese telecoms giants Huawei Technologies from providing 5G technology for their networks, citing national security concerns.

The Dalian port in northern China.

Reuters reported that five harbours overseen by Dalian customs - Dalian, Bayuquan, Panjin, Dandong and Beiliang - will not allow Australian coal to clear through customs.

"The banning of those coal shipments is a form of coercion against Australia".

He said the trading relationship between Australia and China remains as strong as it's been in the past.

"This is not the first occasion where Australian coal exports to China have slowed in terms of the pace at which they are processed or assessed and let into the country".

While Dalian only takes about 2 percent of Australia's coal exports, a ban would mark a deterioration in often strained relations between the key trading partners.

One of China's biggest ports has put restrictions on shipments of coal from Australia, its top supplier of anthracite, casting a shadow upon Australia's second largest export earner.

Spokesperson Geng Shuang made the comment at a regular press briefing in response to a question about a ban on imports of Australian coal.

A Shanghai coal trader told Xinder Marine News they have stopped ordering coal from Australia because of the ongoing uncertainty around the port restrictions.

The Australian dollar has been hit hard by the news and was on Friday morning trading down nearly three-quarters of a percentage point at US70.93¢ since the news broke on Thursday.

Dalian handles both thermal and coking coal imports but the clampdown is expected to have a bigger impact on coking coal, used in steel making, than thermal coal, used to generate electricity.

Australia's Trade Minister Simon Birmingham wait for a group photo during the 30th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) ministerial meeting in Port Moresby November 15, 2018.

He said he would work with the coal industry on matters of market access.

While some pundits say it is due to diplomatic tensions, others say China is merely trying to limit low-quality coal and support domestic supplies.

Mr Frydenberg said: "We can see these occasional interruptions to the smooth flow but that doesn't necessarily translate to some of the consequences that aspects of the media might seek to leap to".

The Aussie rallied more than half a percent to a two-week high of United States dollars 0.72075 after the release of the figures, which showed Australia added 65,400 in full-time employment in January, with the unemployment rate steady at 5.0 percent.

"The immediate step was to find out from China what is happening".

It anticipated a lesser impact on BHP and Glencore given their high-grade standing, while Whitehaven Coal's metallurgical product and the New Hope Group's thermal product could be at risk.

"I wouldn't jump to conclusions", Mr Frydenberg told reporters on Friday.

"I don't believe for one moment this is linked to some of the higher level issues of relationships between China and the rest of the world, and including with us".

NAB chief market economist Ivan Colhoun said while details remain "somewhat hazy", the initial drop in Australian dollar may be an over-reaction.

Australian shares gained 0.7 percent, closing at a six-month high, but the Australian dollar tumbled sliding on fears a ban on the country's coal by a Chinese port would hurt its already slowing economy.

Tensions arose in 2017 when Canberra accused Beijing of meddling in its domestic affairs, and the relationship suffered another setback previous year when Australia banned China's Huawei from its 5G broadband network.

However, currency markets are likely to remain on edge for some time. "China is a valued partner of Australia and we trust that our free-trade agreement commitments to each other will continue to be honoured".

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