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China, Australia discuss free trade feasibility
By Zhang Jin (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-04-28 08:40

China and Australia are expected to expedite a feasibility study on the Sino-Australian free trade agreement (FTA).

"I am impressed by the progress (of FTA negotiations)... and the two sides have agreed to fast-track the work," Australian Trade Minister Mark Vaile said Tuesday.

The conclusion of the study will now come out in the first half of 2005, ahead of the previous deadline for October of that year, Vaile told reporters.

The study will present a basis upon which both governments can consider the benefits and costs of such an agreement prior to any decision being taken on the commencement of negotiations, according to an official from the Chinese Ministry of Commerce.

A trade and economic co-operation framework was signed by Vaile and China's Vice-Minister of Commerce Yu Guangzhou in the presence of Australian Prime Minister John Howard and Chinese President Hu Jintao on October 24 of last year.

New Zealand and China recently also reached a trade and economic co-operation framework agreement, and are to push for China-New Zealand FTA talks.

As for market economy status, Vaile said Australia will first complete the feasibility study.

The trade minister also hopes China could facilitate the imports of Australian fresh fruit, such as oranges and mangoes.

Australia has given market access to China's longan and lychee fruits, he added.

Vaile believes the two countries can team up to play their due roles in pushing the Doha Development Agenda.

Vaile also said China and Australia should strengthen partnerships in fields such as education and tourism on the basis of good trade and economic ties.

Chinese Commerce Minister Bo Xilai said during his meeting with Vaile yesterday morning that the two countries are complementary in their economies, and have vast opportunities for economic co-operation.

For instance, Chinese demand is expected to grow for Australian iron ore, natural gas, unwrought aluminum, copper, wool and wheat.

Meanwhile, Australian consumers will also benefit from inexpensive Chinese exports including computers, clothing, video and digital cameras, mobile phones and sporting goods.

China is currently Australia's third-largest trading partner. Australia is China's ninth-largest trading partner.

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