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Australian Prime Minister Urges Chinese Premier for speedy Environmental Test on coal imports

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November 24
8:20 AM 2015

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull urged Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to hasten environmental tests of sulfur content on coal imports as Australian exporters claim that the new standards disrupts the trade and drives down the already low prices.

"Australian coal generally has very low sulfur so there's no bad news in that for Australian coal exporters," said Turnbull in a report by Bloomberg. "There have, however, been some administrative difficulties in the way the testing has been managed."

The Australian Financial Review reported China last year imposed new standards on coal for its power generation to reduce emissions of sulphur dioxide, mercury, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter. This is a move to decrease the severe air pollution that China is facing. Australian coal exporters, which export $9 billion worth of coal to China annually, is suffering from delays due to these standards.

Mr Turnbull and Mr Li met at the East Asia Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Saturday to discuss the measures on the environmental testing.

According to the Australian Business Review, Mr Li said the Chinese economy is projected to grow by 7 percent, as estimated by the World Bank. He assured Turnbull that China will continue to buy coal from Australia. The leaders from both countries agreed to come up with measures to "streamline the process" of testing.

Taizhou port authorities turned down 40,000 tonnes of Australian coal imports in July on environmental grounds. Besides the standards, weaker demand has also disrupted the trade. The General Administration of Custom reported July that the coal imports in China dropped 37.5 percent by volume in the first and second quarter this year compared to the same period in 2014.    

Meanwhile, world's biggest exporter of metallurgical coal BHP vice-president of marketing for coal Shaun Verner the testing makes it harder for them to sell tons to China.

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