Australian Trade Minister Mark Vaile on Tuesday welcomed the announcement that negotiations will begin on a free trade agreement (FTA) between Australia and China, saying he looks forward to creating new opportunities for Australian exporters in China.
Australia and China signed a memorandum of understanding Monday night, agreeing to start negotiations on a FTA.
"Having visited China regularly in the past six years and seen the enormous potential in the Chinese market, I am looking forward to beginning negotiations with my Chinese counterpart," Vaile said in a statement.
"A FTA would shape our future trading relationship with the world's fastest-growing major economy. In the last two years, China has accounted for a quarter of world economic growth," he said.
The just completed joint FTA Feasibility Study concludes that a FTA would enhance output and employment in both countries. It would boost the Australian economy by an estimated 24.4 billion dollars (18.8 billion US dollars) over a 10 year period.
Vaile pointed out that while the negotiations would be challenging, Australia could not afford to ignore this opportunity to consolidate and improve its position in the Chinese market.
"Engaging more closely with this emerging industrial power will enable Australia to set the terms for our future trade and tackle current trade impediments, including many 'behind the border' issues that act as serious barriers to our exporters and service providers in the Chinese market," he said.
On domestic worries that an FTA will do harm to Australia's manufacturing sector, Vaile said Australia and China are not direct competitors in all segments of the manufacturing market.
"In fact Australia's manufacturing exports to China have grown faster than to anywhere else in the world," he said.