Australia, China make steady progress on free trade talks
|Oranges from Australia on display at an international fruit and vegetable exhibition last year in Beijing. China and Australia may conclude a decade of negotiations on a free-trade agreement by the end of this year. [Photo/China Daily]|
China and Australia may conclude a decade of negotiations on a free-trade agreement by the end of this year, Australian officials said on Tuesday after talks with Chinese officials.
"We've spent a very productive few hours with Xu Shaoshi, the chairman of China's National Development and Reform Commission," said Australia's Treasurer Joe Hockey, who declined to give further details.
"The conclusion was that it was doable this year. It could be completed, and that both governments are determined to bring it to completion later this year," said Australian Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Robb.
The complex negotiations, which include agricultural tariffs and quotas, manufactured goods, foreign investment and services, have not gone smoothly.
Robb, who's in Beijing for the inaugural Australia-China Strategic Economic Dialogue, said one of the most difficult parts was agriculture.
"Nevertheless, China signed an agreement with New Zealand in 2008, and we are expecting to learn from it and conclude the talks," Robb said.
Australian officials will meet with China's Minister of Agriculture Han Changfu and emphasize the importance of strong market access gains for Australian agriculture through an FTA.
Measures under discussion include setting up a clearing bank to enhance the offshore market development of China's currency, expanding bilateral trade and creating opportunities for investment of both sides.
(Editor:Liang Jun、Yao Chun)