TRADE minister Simon Birmingham has spoken out following reports China is implementing restrictions on the import of Australian coal.

Such actions were mooted in the Chinese media and would be seen as part of a wider trade dispute between the two nations.

“I urge Chinese authorities to immediately rule out these reports of what, if accurate, would appear to be the use of discriminatory practices against Australian coal,” Senator Birmingham said in a statement to Sky News.

Reports have suggested China would replace Australian coal with more domestic production as well as with coal from Mongolia, Russia and Indonesia.

A news report into China’s coal policy. Credit: YouTube and SkyNews

China imports a combination of thermal (steam) and coking (metallurgical) coal from Australia with volumes heavily dependent upon price.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has weighed into the matter, saying Australia has still received no official word from China on any coal ban.

“Until we are in a position to have that clarified, then we can only treat this as media speculation,” the PM was quoted as saying in The New Daily.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison talks about the coal dispute. Credit: YouTube and Channel 7.

“If that were the case, then that would obviously be in breach of WTO (World Trade Organisation) rules, it would be obviously in breach of our free trade agreement, and so we would hope that is certainly not the case.”

There have been suggestions China or Australia could seek to use iron ore as a lever in the dispute. China continues to import large volumes from the Pilbara.

Australian iron ore retains a significant price advantage, due to proximity, over iron ore from Brazil.

The ban on Australian coal was referenced in China’s state-owned media company The Global Times and the article can be read here.