China and Australia are determined to sign a trade agreement deal by the end of this year, Australia’s trade chief has stated after talks with Chinese leaders.
Australian trade and investment minister, Andrew Robb, says the deal with China is on track, but declined to give details of talks, saying he didn’t want to “put his cards on the table”.
“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,” Robb stated after meeting with Xu Shaoshi, chairman of China’s National Development and Reform Commission.
China has become Australia’s largest two-way trading partner and is vital to Australia’s future economic prosperity. Further strengthening and deepening this relationship is a major priority for Australia, as trade in goods and services between the two countries reached about US$150bn in 2013, according to the Australian government.
China and Australia agreed to begin free trade agreement negotiations on April 18, 2005, but over nine years later, the negotiations have still not concluded.
“There is a negotiation, so anything can happen. But we’re both confident and we went through in some detail what ground had to be covered, including agriculture,” Robb added.
Negotiations are complex, covering an array of issues, including agricultural tariffs and quotas, manufactured goods, services, temporary entry of people and foreign investment.
The statements came when Robb was in China with Australian treasurer Joe Hockey for the country’s first annual Strategic Economic Dialogue with China, Australia’s largest two-way trading partner.