The Hon. Mark Vaile, MP
The Hon. Mark Vaile, MP

Media release

Monday, 23 May 2005 - MVT40/2005

First Round of Australia - China FTA Negotiations Begins

Trade Minister Mark Vaile announced that the first round of China - Australia FTA negotiations will begin today in Sydney.

"Today marks an historic period in our bilateral relationship, China is one of the fastest growing economies in the world and Australia is extremely well placed to take full advantage of this significant export opportunity," Vaile said.

The launch coincides with an address by the Chairman of China's National People's Congress, Mr Wu Bangguo to senior Australian and Chinese business representatives at the China-Australia Economic and Trade Cooperation Forum this morning.

Mr Wu, who ranks second in the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, is the forum keynote speaker.

"As from today, senior trade officials will map the way forward for the negotiations operating on the principle that they will be comprehensive, covering goods, services and investment, and be completed as a single undertaking," Mr Vaile said.

"The economic and commercial relationship is set to move into an exciting, new and more closely integrated phase. Australia is well placed to provide the services and commodities China needs for its continued economic growth and development."

"Last week Mr Wu witnessed Australian ingenuity in the development and transportation of iron ore and natural gas resources while visiting Western Australia."

The strong complementarities between Australia and China are highlighted in the forum's topics - banking and financial services, tourism, mining and energy, engineering and construction services and the FTA.

"In the last decade, merchandise trade between Australia and China has more than quadrupled to $29 billion and in 2004, China emerged as Australia's second largest merchandise export market and second largest source of merchandise imports," Mr Vaile said.

The forum is co-hosted by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and China's Ministry of Commerce, and organised by the Australia-China Business Council.

Mr Wu will meet with Prime Minister John Howard in Canberra tomorrow. He is visiting Australia as a Guest of Parliament and Guest of Government.

Contact: Mr Vaile's office 02 6277 7420

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