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Australia, China To Quicken FTA Negotiations

by Mary Swire,, Hong Kong

17 April 2014

It was suggested that the pace of negotiations on the proposed free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries should be quickened, following a recent visit by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott to China.

Having previously been able to announce the completion of a trade treaty with Japan, and to witness the signing of Australia's FTA with South Korea, during previous stopovers on his East Asian trip, Abbott met with Chinese leaders to promote the much-delayed FTA, which has been under discussion since 2005, and which, so far, has gone through 19 rounds of negotiations. The Australian Government has indicated previously that it wants to complete the agreement within this year.

Following those meetings on April 11, Chinese President Xi Jinping stated that "both sides should speed up the negotiation on the bilateral FTA," while Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang subsequently also noted that economic and trade cooperation between the two countries is now "on the fast track."

In addition, during his press conference in Beijing the following day, Abbott commented that "I think we have accelerated here in China towards a China-Australia FTA."

While there has been no indication as to what differences still exist between the two sides in the trade talks, Xi, in his statement, did express "the hope that Australia could provide favorable conditions for Chinese enterprises to invest and operate in the country." This could be an reference back to the continued bar on Huawei from participating in Australia's national broadband network development that caused particular comment in China late last year.

While China is Australia's biggest market, with mineral resources, energy and food top of its export list, and the countries' total trade reached over USD135bn last year, Australia is also the largest overseas investment destination for Chinese companies.

TAGS: tax | free trade agreement (FTA) | trade treaty | Australia | China | agreements | trade

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