Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Robb will join regional counterparts in Beijing for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings where will also hold high-level talks regarding a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China.

Mr Robb will participate in the APEC Ministerial Meeting this week (7-8 November) and will meet with key Chinese counterparts for important talks to advance negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement with Australia’s biggest trading partner.

“After almost a decade, the FTA negotiations have now reached an advanced stage, but there are critical issues still to be worked through if we are to fulfil our objective of a satisfactory conclusion this year and making further positive progress will be a primary focus of my visit,” he said.

APEC is an important economic forum in the Asia Pacific with 21 member economies accounting for 58 per cent of global GDP and more than two-thirds of Australia’s trade in goods and services. The APEC Ministerial Meeting followed by the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting (10-11 November) provides an opportunity to review the forum’s trade and economic work and to consider challenges facing member economies.

Mr Robb said APEC for example provides a forum to highlight the importance of getting the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement back on track. “APEC has a good record on trade facilitation and is well-placed to demonstrate the benefits for business of the WTO Agreement.”

This year Australia has led work on a number of APEC initiatives in line with the Government’s economic priorities. “We have promoted the opening of services markets to make global value chains more efficient and supported reforms to enable the faster and cheaper movement of Australian goods within regional supply chains,” Mr Robb said.

“We have also collaborated with developing economies on structural reforms, led efforts to facilitate export market access for SMEs owned by women and promoted business continuity planning to safeguard SMEs in the world’s most disaster-prone region.”

As host of the G20 this year, Australia has also worked closely with China as 2014 APEC host to ensure that the like-minded approach Australia and China take to the work programs of the two forums translates into practical outcomes for business.

“A key focus for Australia’s G20 leadership is to promote and enable private sector-led growth.  APEC’s work on trade, structural reform and infrastructure financing reinforces this G20 agenda at the regional level,” Mr Robb said.

Mr Robb said Australia was supportive of APEC’s long-term goal of a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP). “Australia will continue to support efforts towards this goal, including a comprehensive study on issues relevant to the development of the FTAAP,” he said.

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