China-Australia lobster trade ban could be set to lift - ABC

People take pictures of Australian lobster at an Australia food booth during the third China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai
People take pictures of Australian lobster at an Australia food booth during the third China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai, China November 6, 2020. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo

SYDNEY, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Australia's A$750 million ($521.78 million) lobster trade with China could be on the verge of restarting after more than two years of unofficial bans, state broadcaster ABC reported on Thursday, citing a licence application that was not rejected immediately.

Trade Minister Don Farrell told the ABC that an unnamed exporter had applied for the licence and it was not rejected immediately, days after a virtual meeting with his Chinese counterpart yielded an invitation to visit Beijing for more talks.

It is believed to be the first time this has happened since unofficial bans cut off the trade in late 2020, the ABC added.

"Any step towards resolving the trade impediments would be welcome," Farrell said on Thursday in response to questions from Reuters.

If the ban is lifted, lobsters could follow coal as the second commodity to see Chinese trade sanctions ease as diplomatic relations between the two countries thaw after meetings between the respective leaders, foreign ministers and trade ministers.

Trading teams at Geraldton Fisherman's Co-operative in Western Australia state, which controls three-quarters of the largest rock lobster fishery in the world, have not seen any change to customs or trade rules with China, a spokesperson for the group said.

The South China Morning Post reported in January that Chinese officials were discussing giving customs clearance to Australian lobsters.

($1 = 1.4374 Australian dollars)

Reporting by Lewis Jackson; Editing by Jamie Freed

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