China restricts trade with Taiwan amid tensions over Pelosi trip

China restricts trade with Taiwan amid tensions over Pelosi trip

China’s Commerce Ministry announces trade measures after warning of “serious consequences” over visit.

China has restricted its trade with Taiwan amid elevated tensions over US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the democratically-ruled island.

China’s Commerce Ministry said in a notice on Wednesday it had halted exports of sand, a key material used in construction, and suspended imports of Taiwanese citrus fruit and some types of fish.

The announcement comes as Pelosi conducts a high-profile visit to Taiwan despite Beijing warning of “serious consequences” should the veteran Democratic politician make the trip.

The trade measures also follow a notice by China’s customs agency on Monday that it had blacklisted more than 100 Taiwanese food brands for failing to renew their export registration.

Wu Shou-Mei, director-general of Taiwan’s Food and Drug Administration, said the moves overnight may be politically motivated as Taiwanese manufacturers were being treated differently than those from elsewhere, the Taipei Times reported.

China last year banned imports of Taiwanese pineapples citing “biosafety” concerns, in a move widely seen as an attempt to put pressure on Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, who has sought to boost Taiwan’s standing overseas.

China has been repeatedly accused of using trade as a weapon in recent years, with Australia and Lithuania seeing their exports hit with tariffs and other restrictions after becoming embroiled in disputes with Beijing.

Alicia García-Herrero, chief Asia Pacific economist at Natixis in Hong Kong, said the suspension of fruit and fish imports would have a negligible impact on Taiwan’s economy, but the ban on sand exports could have a significant effect as construction has become an important source of growth during the pandemic.

“There have been shortages of sand and gravel for some time in Taiwan,”  García-Herrero told Al Jazeera.

“I would not say it is a key export from China but it does hurt Taiwan.”

Pelosi, the third-highest ranking official in the US government, touched down in Taipei on Monday as part of a five-leg Asia tour that includes Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Malaysia.

In an op-ed published in the Washington Post minutes after her arrival, Pelso said the United States could not stand by as Beijing “proceeds to threaten Taiwan – and democracy itself.”

China’s foreign ministry has slammed the visit as “extremely dangerous” and accused the US side of “playing with fire.”

China’s Communist Party considers self-ruled Taiwan a renegade province that must be “reunified” with the mainland, by force if necessary, although the party has never had control of the island.

The Biden administration has said it does not support independence for Taiwan or changing the status quo, but that Pelosi has the right to visit the island.

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