Diplomatic ties between Australia and its largest trading partner deteriorated last year after Canberra called for an international inquiry into the source of the coronavirus, angering China. Any hopes of a quick reconciliation have been dashed as Canberra and Beijing have now ensnared bureaucrats, who would usually stay engaged during a temporary disagreement. Australia exports logs to China were worth just over A$600 million and woodchips worth were almost A$980 million annually, according to 2018-19 trade figures. The four-million-ton log timber trade with China has been largely suspended since late last year after Beijing said it had found pests in shipments coming from several Australian ports. Woodchips, however, continue to be exported to China. Australia’s Department of Agriculture did not receive a response after providing evidence to China’s General Administration of Customs that the shipments were sprayed with pesticides, said the sources, who have direct knowledge of the approaches but declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter. Victor Violante, deputy chief executive of the Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA), told Reuters, “At least hundreds of workers nationally have already lost work as a result of forest thinning, harvesting and haulage, and port operations being deferred. If the trade suspension continues for months or even years, it will severely impact the whole supply chain including sawmills, and with it thousands more jobs.”
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Australian timber faces protracted logjam amid China's import freeze