Clock ticking for Australia on a "truly great" China FTA

Updated: 2014-04-28 16:16


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For his part, Abbott said in Shanghai he recognized the commercial intent of China's SOEs indicating a willingness to grant China the same access to Australia under a free trade agreement as other trading partners.

This would guarantee FIRB scrutinization for deals exceeding the 1 billion mark rather than 248 million as it stands. The hurdle though, is in Mr Abbott's own backyard.

The influential Greens party, whose leader Christine Milne has repeatedly stated absolute opposition to any changes which would allow foreign government subsidiaries to invest up to 15 million dollars in Australian agriculture, without first going through FIRB is one such example.

"If a foreign government is buying into Australia, then that needs to be assessed in every instance, to see if it's in the national interest."

For their part, Australian investors agonize over access to key industries, especially those dominated by SOEs.

The breadth of China's economic importance to Australia stretches well beyond the historic trade surplus.

Almost 30 percent of Australian exports end up in China, a larger share than the next three most important trading nations ( Japan, South Korea and the U.S.) combined. In 2012, Australia exported 78.7 billion Australian dollars worth of goods to China and imported 46.3 billion dollars. China accounts for over 21 percent of total two-way trade for Australia.

These are the figures that need to stay foremost in the minds of negotiators as they move forward.

Abbott has simplified the drawn-out negotiations, as he does with his most perplexing issues, with a sporting metaphor.

He said, "It's a bit like being in the middle of a World Cup grand final those are the stakes we're playing for. We've scored two goals, but it will only be a draw if we don't score the third goal."

Abbott is right and now is the time to score the third goal. An FTA between Australia and China will be "a truly great" agreement between two ideally suited economies.

"What we need now is leadership and the desire to work harmoniously for the betterment of both people," as David Thomas, a Australian trade specialist, said.

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