The new head of the Customs and Excise Department, Elizabeth Ho, who took office on 21 October, said that smuggling Australian lobsters into China posed a threat to China’s national security. Australia took the opportunity to seek answers from China as to why it had banned the import of Australian lobsters.
Australian lobster is one of the goods that China has banned after relations between Australia and China came to a standstill over the 5G network and the traceability of the new coronavirus pneumonia (COVID-19). But it is still popular with mainland Chinese. Hong Kong is not subject to trade restrictions imposed by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, the Australian Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) said on 22 December, adding that analysis predicted that most of the Australian lobster imported into Hong Kong would end up in mainland China.
Ho Pui-shan, who became the first female Commissioner of Customs and Excise in Hong Kong’s history, said she was concerned about the lobster as a priority. On the surface, it’s just a matter of smuggling lobsters,” she said. But these (smuggling) activities are undermining the trade restrictions we have imposed on Australia,” she said. She also said the crackdown on lobster smuggling in Australia was an effort to uphold China’s trade restrictions on Australia and national security.
Her remarks follow criticism of China by George Mina, Australia’s representative to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, on 20 October. At a WTO hearing on China’s Trade Policy Review on 20 October, Mina accused Beijing of using political considerations as a motivation for its trade disruption measures against Australia. They have prevented the export of more than a dozen goods to China, including lobsters.
Australian lobsters imported to China were previously worth US$527 million a year, but on 5 November 2020 the Chinese customs authorities announced they would step up inspections on them, Reuters said on 22 October. Australian Trade Minister Dan Tehan said in a statement on 22 October 2021 that the move would have a significant impact on the country’s lobster imports.
The Australian government continues to seek further information from the Chinese Customs Administration on this matter,” Tehan said. When he was asked about the comments made by Elizabeth Ho, he said: “The trade in rock lobster from Australia to Hong Kong is in full compliance with the requirements (of the country where it is imported).