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China Says Australia’s Exporters Can Come Back. Some Say No Thanks.

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Trade leads agenda for Anthony Albanese on first visit by Australian leader to China since diplomatic rift in 2020

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is set to meet with Chinese officials in the coming days. Photo: stringer/Reuters

ADELAIDE, Australia—When China reopened its ports to Australian steelmaking coal in January, it soon ran up against a legacy of its two-year standoff with one of its biggest trading partners: The ships mostly weren’t coming back.

Australian coal exporters had to cultivate new markets on the fly after being locked out of China when its leaders reacted angrily to former Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s call for an international investigation into the origins of Covid-19. Many turned to India, which needs coal to feed its burgeoning steel industry. Those ties have held even as Beijing rolled back restrictions.

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