Amid the rising tensions between Beijing and Canberra, Australian PM Scott Morrison on December 15 accused China of breaching international trade rules through its reported ban on Australian coal imports. Morrison’s remarks come in response to a report in Chinese state media outlet Global Times confirming that Beijing was restricting imports of coal only from Australia and prioritising imports from Mongolia, Indonesia and Russia. The Australian PM, along with Trade Minister Simon Birmingham, accused China of breaching its agreement with Australia and further said that the government is seeking clarification from Beijing about the reported ban. 

According to The Guardian, Morrison said that if the coal ban was in a place that would “obviously be in breach of WTO rules” and “obviously in breach of our own free trade agreement”. While speaking about the souring relationship between the two countries, he argued that it was correct to stand up for liberal democratic values, Australia’s sovereignty and to push for an investigation into the origins of COVID-19. Further, Morrison also hoped that he would have a “direct” conversation with his Chinese counterpart in 2021, saying there was “no barrier to that occurring on the Australian side”.