China’s free trade agreements (FTA) with Australia and South Korea have come into effect in a move predicted to boost flagging trade for all parties involved.
Both deals have been signed for months, awaiting parliamentary ratification in their respective counterparts and their conclusion highlights the importance of China to both Australia and Korea, where exports have suffered as a result of the Chinese slowdown.
China already accounts for one-third of Australian exports and despite the economic slowdown there, Australian businesses have continued to pin their hopes on the world’s largest trading nation.
The China Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) will remove tariffs on about 85% of all Australian exports to China immediately, with the figure rising to 96% when the agreement is fully implemented. Going the other way, 100% of Chinese exports to Australia will eventually be duty free.
The change in prime minister in Australia this year did not derail the agreements progress, with trade minister Andrew Robb retaining his position throughout the reshuffle. Robb hailed the agreement as “landmark” and trade figures in Australia have long since supported its completion.
“The successful conclusion of negotiations for the ChAFTA is another positive step forward and we are looking forward to seeing this translate into further opportunities,” Nussara Smith, the CEO of the Australia-China Business Council in Queensland, tells GTR.
“Over the past 40 years, the Australia-China relationship has developed and diversified. China is now Australia’s largest two-way trading partner. China is Australia’s largest goods export destination and largest services market with exports in services,” she adds.
Chinese demand for Australian commodities led to an unprecedented boom in recent decades, but the decline of China’s construction and property sectors have left a huge hole in Australia’s exports. Producers have been looking for new markets, but also hoping for a revival in China.
Speaking to GTR recently, Michael Roche, CEO of the Queensland Resource Council, praised the government’s efforts to work with China, but urged progress on a mooted FTA with India.
“China is an important market in the long term, but it will peak over the next 15 years, given the demographics. That’s why there’s so much focus being put on developing the relationship with India. It’s young, with strongly growing demand for resource commodities. A lot of effort is going into entrenching that relationship with India,” he said.
The Korean agreement, meanwhile, will see China remove tariffs on 91% of inbound goods over 20 years, with Korea eliminating duties on 92% of Chinese goods over the same period.
Korean parliamentarians also ratified agreements with Vietnam and New Zealand, whose government is assuming a similarly aggressive trade policy to Australia. It hopes that the deals will speed up negotiations around regional trade agreements.
“These two FTAs will help speed up negotiations on other FTAs and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership,” Shen Danyang, spokesman for China’s Ministry of Commerce, told local press.