© Reuters. Workers look on as beef cattle imported from Australia leave a cargo ship at a port in Qingdao

SYDNEY (Reuters) – China decision to ban imports from four of Australia’s largest beef processors was not a response to Canberra’s call for independent inquiry into the origins of COVID-19, Australia’s Minister for Trade Simon Birmingham said on Tuesday.

Birmingham had earlier said in a statement that Kilcoy Pastoral Company, JBS’s Beef City and Dinmore plants, and the Northern Cooperative Meat Company have been banned from exporting beef to China due to issues with labelling.

The suspension of the beef shipments came as ties between Australia and China publicly soured, although Birmingham said he did not believe it was retribution by China over the call for an inquiry into the orgins of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

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