Still “business as usual” in Australia despite reports China will reopen lobster imports

Australia Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and China Premier Li Qiang met on 18 June in Australia
Australia Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and China Premier Li Qiang met on 18 June in Australia | Photo courtesy of the Office of the Australian Prime Minister
6 Min

A reopening of the Chinese market to Australian lobster imports may be imminent, according to Australia Federal Minister for Trade and Tourism Don Farrell.

Lobsters were one of several key export commodities to get caught up in a political dispute in 2020 when then-Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison questioned China’s handling of the outbreak of Covid-19 and suggested its origin in China be further investigated. Chinese trade authorities unofficially banned Australian lobster and wine from entering the country, and while rumors have swirled for years about a thaw in the dispute leading to a resumption of trade in those goods, the Chinese government has not yet completed any policy change.

However, China Premier Li Qiang visited Australia on 18 June and discussed trade and food safety with current Australia Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. Those conversations had relevance to the country’s lobster exports to China, as Australian lobsters have not been able to clear Chinese customs.

“The government’s steady engagement with China has resulted in the removal of almost all trade impediments on Australian exports to China. Prime Minister [Albanese] used the visit to advocate for the removal of remaining impediments,” The Australia Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.

Australia Federal Minister for Trade and Tourism Don Farrell said on 28 June that AUD 456,000 (USD 301,000, EUR 283,000) in funding from the regional government of Southern Australian would go toward helping the seafood industry reengage with the Chinese market

“Virtually overnight, South Australian lobster exporters lost their most valuable market, worth AUD 70 million [USD 46.2 million, EUR 43.4 million] at its peak,” Farrell told Sky News Australia. "I'm very confident that in the very near future, [after the] recent visit by the Chinese premier and the Chinese state minister, that we will get the final product that has been the subject to these impediments back into the Chinese market.”

In the first four months of 2024, lobster exports from Southern Australia were valued at AUD 41 million (USD 27 million, EUR 25.4 million), with AUD 24 million (USD 15.8 million, EUR 14.8 million) going to Hong Kong – some of which is entering mainland China – and AUD 14 million (USD 9.2 million, EUR 8.7 million) shipped to Vietnam.

Farrell said the funding is designed to ...

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