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China, Australia Accelerate FTA Talks

by Mary Swire,, Hong Kong

29 July 2013

Both countries promised to expedite negotiations on a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) during meetings on July 24, in Beijing, between China's Minister of Commerce Gao Hucheng and Australia's Trade Minister Richard Marles.

Marles's visit to China came two weeks after Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Chinese President Xi Jinping had agreed to explore ways to advance the FTA negotiations.

After the meeting, Gao said China attaches great importance to negotiation of the FTA, and that China is willing to work with Australia in a "sincere, pragmatic and flexible manner" so as to accelerate the FTA negotiations. He added that Australia had put forward new unspecified proposals, which were, however, positive, constructive and should help both sides to narrow their differences.

Marles had said that: "The Australian Government is committed to reinvigorating FTA negotiations with China and delivering an agreement which offers greater prosperity for both countries." After his meetings, he re-confirmed that Australia is willing to develop innovative ways to actively promote the conclusion of an FTA with China as soon as possible.

FTA negotiations were started in 2005 but, with tariffs over sensitive goods being especially problematic, were still incomplete after 18 rounds of talks. China has since become Australia's largest two-way trading partner, and Australia is seeking a "high ambition" FTA, including agricultural tariffs and quotas, manufactured goods and services.

Matching Australia's increasing natural resource exports to China, particularly iron ore, coal and natural gas, with China's increasing industrialization, both countries appear to have a strategic interest in completing an FTA as soon as possible.

Marles also commented that "providing goods and services to the growing Chinese middle class represents an incredible opportunity to diversify the Australian economy and to move beyond the resources-dominated commercial relationship with our largest trading partner."

TAGS: tax | free trade agreement (FTA) | tariffs | Australia | China | agreements | import duty | trade | services

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