China has restricted its trade with Taiwan amid elevated tensions over United States House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the democratically-ruled island.
Chinese commerce and customs authorities said on Wednesday they had halted exports of sand, a key material used in construction, and imports of Taiwanese citrus fruit and some types of fish.
China’s Taiwan Affairs Office separately announced it would prohibit mainland Chinese companies and individuals from financial dealings with two Taiwanese foundations, the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy and the Taiwan International Cooperation and Development Fund.
The announcements come as Pelosi conducts a high-profile visit to Taiwan despite Beijing’s warning of “serious consequences” should the veteran Democratic politician make the trip.
The trade measures 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 is Taiwan’s largest trade partner, with the island’s exports to mainland China and Hong Kong reaching $188.9bn in 2021.
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 relationships and standing overseas.
China has been 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 suspending fruit and fish imports would have a negligible effect on Taiwan’s economy, but halting sand exports could have a significant impact as construction has become an important source of economic growth during the pandemic.
“There have been shortages of sand and gravel for some time in Taiwan,” García-Herrero told Al Jazeera.