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Australia

Trade flourishes

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 January, 2012, 12:00am

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Agriculture, mining and energy, manufacturing, services, and investment - pretty much whatever the field - there's some sort of business connection between Australia and China.

Garment factories in Shenzhen and beyond snap up Australian-grown cotton and wool. Iron ore and coal plucked from deep within the earth Down Under are shipped north to China. The same goes for aluminium, copper, nickel and pig iron. Australian education services enjoy an excellent reputation on the mainland. And Australian interests in China cover manufacturing, property and business services. In short, when it comes to trade between the two nations, there's a lot going on.

Recent figures paint a bigger picture. China's GDP of US$5.878 trillion translates into US$4,382 per capita among a population of more than 1.3 billion, and is growing at roughly 10 per cent a year. Trade with Australia was valued at US$105.306 billion in 2010. Strengthening and deepening this relationship is high on the list of priorities for both countries, and Beijing and Canberra are committed to sustaining the impressive trade and investment performance achieved in the past two decades. In that time, China has become Australia's largest two-way trading partner and is key to Australia's future economic prosperity.

Back in April 2005, Australia and China agreed to commence negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) following consideration of a joint FTA Feasibility Study which concluded that there would be significant economic benefits for both countries.

The negotiations cover an array of issues, including agricultural tariffs and quotas, manufactured goods, services, temporary entry of people and foreign investment.

The principal item is removing or reducing tariff and non-tariff barriers affecting bilateral trade in goods, which could, in particular, reduce transaction costs and improve efficiency. Also under consideration are regulatory barriers which restrict services - removing them would support improved trade flows across goods and services of interest to both economies.

Thirdly, establishing measures to encourage more foreign investment between Australia and China would provide a firm foundation for the future economic relationship.

Australian and Chinese negotiators last met for the 17th round of talks in Beijing late last year.

On market access for goods, both sides continued the process of taking stock of their respective offers and requests and exchanging information on the status of respective priorities and sensitivities. Constructive discussions were held and some progress was made on trade in goods, sanitary and phytosanitary issues, customs procedures, technical barriers to trade, and rules of origin.

Diplomats report that further progress was made on developing the services and investment chapters. There was a useful exchange on both sides' requests in services and investment market access.

In the legal and other issues, negotiators agreed a number of elements on a dispute settlement chapter and on transparency. Progress was made in refining intellectual property and negotiators discussed priority issues on electronic commerce. Australia reiterated its interest in including provisions on government procurement.

The next meeting is due to be held later this year. In the meantime, trade continues to flourish.