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Australian Opposition places free trade deal with China a priority

(Xinhua)

09:57, October 25, 2011

CANBERRA, Oct. 24 (Xinhua) -- Australian Opposition on Monday told Sky News that securing a free trade agreement with China is still a priority for the party.

Last week, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott urged the federal government to pursue a free trade agreement with Japan.

Opposition deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop said she agrees with Abbott's comments, but clarified that a free trade agreement with China and Japan both remain a priority.

"The coalition's policy has not changed," Bishop said on Monday.

While New Zealand had secured a free trade agreement with China in 2008, despite starting negotiations at the same time as Australia in 2005, Bishop said the former Howard government had started negotiations for free trade agreements with China, Malaysia, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and India.

"The Labor party has dropped the ball on them," she said, adding that the federal government has taken away staff and resources from the negotiating team working on the China free trade deal.

However, Federal Trade Minister Craig Emerson reassured that Australia remains committed, saying he had a telephone conversation last week with his Chinese counterpart Chen Deming, where he had assured Chen that Australia remains committed to the trade negotiations with China.

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