Australian coal reportedly worth more than $1.1 billion is being held up at Chinese ports because of apparent problems with environmental standards.
Dozens of bulk carriers have been stuck off the Chinese coast for months due to safety and quality inspections that appear to be aimed squarely at Australian exports.
Resources Minister Keith Pitt is working with exporters to resolve the delays.
“We are aware of longer port processing times for Australian coal, particularly at this time of year,” he told AAP on Thursday.
“We continue to engage with industry about the impact that unofficial restrictions are having on resources exporters.”
According to The Australian, there are now more than 80 coal ships stranded off the coast, with 1500 seafarers aboard.
The newspaper reports the move has prompted the Morrison government to raise concerns about “discriminatory action”.
The coal delays are the latest in a string of Chinese trade strikes against Australian products, with diplomatic relations in the deep freeze over a laundry list of grievances.
‘Not easy issues’
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government would work through the trade issues one at a time, but Australia would not bow to pressure or cede its sovereignty.
“We just work the process through with the Chinese government to get the best possible outcome that we can,” he said.
“These are not easy issues … it’s incredibly complicated what we’re dealing with here.”
The prime minister said skilled trade negotiators were working to resolve the disputes.
“That’s not simple, but simple things are not the only issues we deal with as a government,” Mr Morrison said.
“We deal with very complicated and difficult issues, which this is one of, but we are very keen to ensure we get the best outcome for Australia and in the interests of our relationship.”
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said the coal hold ups were a real concern, as was the fact Australian ministers were being ignored by their counterparts in China.
“This action by China against Australian imports into China is now spreading,” he told reporters in Sydney.
“It’s spread through a range of agricultural products, it’s now spread to our resources in terms of coal, and this has an impact on Australia.”