Business / Economy

New Aussie PM Turnbull stanch supporter of China-Australia FTA

(Xinhua) Updated: 2015-09-18 13:06

CANBERRA - Australia's new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has only been in the job for four days but has already made it clear that one of his most important tasks is to have the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) pass through the parliament.

In emphasizing his foreign policy priorities during his first week in office, Turnbull has gone out of his way to publicly support both ChAFTA and the importance of strong relations with China.

During a speech on Monday, which came just hours before his successful challenge of then Prime Minister Tony Abbott for the Liberal Party leadership, Turnbull spent precious time throughout his six-minute address highlighting ChAFTA's importance to Australia.

Turnbull labeled the trade agreement as "one of the most important foundations of our prosperity" and said he was to compelled to challenge Abbott for the leadership because it had become clear that the opposition Labor Party could oust the government at the next election - therefore putting ChAFTA at risk.

"If we continue with Abbott as prime minister, it is clear enough what will happen: he will cease to be PM and he will be succeeded by (Opposition leader) Shorten. You only have to see the catastrophically reckless approach of Shorten to ChAFTA to know he 's utterly unfit to be prime minister of this country," Turnbull said.

An ongoing parliamentary inquiry into ChAFTA is expected to conclude next month, while its report is due to be delivered to on Oct. 12.

The coalition government has previously envisaged the deal being approved by both houses of parliament by the end of December.

Six weeks earlier, in a speech to the China-Australia Business Forum in August, Turnbull was adamant that ChAFTA needed to succeed, saying Australia would be at a "competitive advantage" once the deal is approved.

"The ChAFTA lays a historic foundation for the next phase of Australia's economic relationship with China," Turnbull said on Aug. 6.

"Most significantly, the unprecedented market access China has offered to Australia under ChAFTA puts our firms at a significant competitive advantage," he said. "It lays the foundation for much faster export growth across many services ... (and makes it) so easy for Australian businesses of all sizes to reach new and expanding markets in China."

The prime minister said Australia's relationship with China stretched back further than most people realized, explaining how China's role in World War II was pivotal to creating fledgling relations with Australia in the 1940s.

Turnbull said that, had China's perseverance waned during the conflict, Japanese attacks on the Australian mainland could have extended to much more than a handful of bombing raids.

"Japan had 680,000 troops in China at the time it launched its Pacific offensive - four times the number it deployed to sweep through South East Asia until they were stopped in the jungles of New Guinea and in the Coral Sea," he said.

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