CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — China has stepped up trade restrictions against Australia, suspending imports of some timber and barley, the agriculture minister said Tuesday, amid tension over the coronavirus, Hong Kong and the South China Sea.

Chinese authorities also are delaying clearance for a $1.4 million shipment of live lobsters from Australia.

Beijing has blocked or limited imports of Australian coal, beef and other goods and announced an investigation into whether wine was being sold at improperly low prices.

That follows demands by Beijing for the Australian government to drop its support for an investigation into the origin of the coronavirus pandemic that began in central China in December.

“We will work with the Chinese authorities to investigate and resolve these issues,” said Agriculture Minister David Littleproud.

The latest controls apply to timber from Queensland and barley from an additional Australian producer.

Advertising

China is Australia’s biggest export market. Beijing increasingly is using its status as a growing consumer giant as leverage against other governments in political disputes.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said Tuesday that the quarantine measures were imposed in line with the law.

“In the meantime, mutual respect is the foundation and guarantee of practical cooperation between countries,” said the spokesman, Wang Wenbin.

“We hope Australia can do more things conducive to mutual trust, bilateral cooperation and the spirit of China-Australia comprehensive strategic partnership and bring the bilateral relations back to the right track as early as possible,” Wang said.