Business / Economy

Australia hopes for progress on FTA this year

(Xinhua) Updated: 2014-09-16 09:09

Australian Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Robb said on Monday that he believes Canberra could reach a free-trade agreement consensus with China by the end of this year and this could benefit both countries widely.

Robb made the remarks to Xinhua in a short interview after delivering a speech at the Australian Dairy Farm Investment Forum which was held in Melbourne, saying "solid" progress had been made during negotiations with his Chinese counterpart on the issue.

"There's no reason why we can't see a completion (of the negotiation) by the end of this year. The opportunity is there, if we can conclude the negotiation satisfactorily for both sides, I think it's still possible to conclude it by the end of this year," said the minister.

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However, even though Robb said "solid" progress had been made during the negotiation, he refused to disclose the relevant details.

"It's not a good idea to put all your cards on the table during the negotiation. All I can say is all these things are very complicated ... a lot of work had been done, but big important issues like dairy, end up in the final stage of the negotiations ... many cases we haven't finalized are very critical issues," he said.

When answering how the FTA would influence the two countries' economies, Robb stressed both sides would greatly benefit in various sectors.

"In agriculture, environmental water management, health, education, engineering, accounting and financing we have wonderful services that, if freed up, could make very great contributions to China moving to domestically focused economy," said the minister.

"For Australia, we can get clear guidelines and access to increased investment into Australia, access to China's key agricultural market, to get opportunities for our services industries to expand into China," he said, adding "that's very important for Australia and it will benefit both sides."

After almost 10 years and 21 rounds of negotiations, many business leaders from both countries are eager to see an FTA concluded as soon as possible. Robb, for his part and to the best of his efforts, is pushing forward very hard to conclude the negotiation.

In his speech at the forum, Robb told hundreds of entrepreneurs and officials that Australia had got "very tough negotiations" with China and that Chinese are "tough negotiators", but "it's time to have the courage to make decisions to complete the agreement and take the relationship between Australia and China to the next level".

"Further delays would only exacerbate competitors, like New Zealand," he said.

According to figures released by New Zealand's dairy trade, revenue from China increased by A$3.7 billion ($3.3 billion) by the end of 2013 since completion of their agreement, but at the same time Australia's revenue from China had increased by A$173 million.

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