China Ready for Free Trade Deal With Australia

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By Vittorio Hernandez | March 10, 2014 1:10 AM EST


UK exports are still outweighed by imports in the country's trade (Reuters)

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China is optimistic that by the end of 2014, it would have signed a free trade agreement with Australia. Chinese Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng said in a press briefing on Friday that the prospects of inking the deal as soon as possible were optimistic.

He said that Canberra wants to close the agreement within 2014, and Beijing is willing to work together with the Australian government.

The talks, which had been going for nine years, is hampered by some points of disagreement such as Australia seeking free access for agricultural exports and China concerned over the restrictions on its state-owned enterprises and the entry of Chinese workers to Australia.

He said, quoted by The Sydney Morning Herald, "As to how to properly solve these problems so that a China-Australia FTA could be reached as soon as possible, this is the common will of both governments."

His statement echoed what Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said at the National People's Congress on Wednesday that China wants to speed up the free trade talks between the two nations.

Australia, under the Abbott-led government, had said it wants to sign the FTA within a year. It had inked an FTA with South Korea in December and is close to signing a similar agreement with Japan.

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So far, two rounds of technical consultations had been held with the Abbott government and China is looking forward to receive relevant officials from the new Australian government to begin another round of formal negotiations, Mr Gao said.

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UK exports are still outweighed by imports in the country's trade (Reuters)
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