Date
18 January 2017
Tony Abbott (center) looks on as Gao Hucheng and Andrew Robb sign the free trade agreement. Photo: AFP
Tony Abbott (center) looks on as Gao Hucheng and Andrew Robb sign the free trade agreement. Photo: AFP

China, Australia sign free trade agreement

China and Australia have signed a trade agreement that is set to increase market access for Australian beef and wine exporters while boosting Chinese carmakers and electronics producers who wish to sell their goods to Australians.

But as ministers from both countries promoted the benefits for industries and consumers, the Australian Labor Party and the Greens vowed to scrutinize the yet-to-be-released details to ensure it was a good deal, the Guardian reported.

One flashpoint is the inclusion of an investor-state dispute settlement clause, which grants foreign companies the right to sue governments for breaching commitments in such agreements.

The Australian union movement has also raised concerns about the access to be granted to Chinese citizens under labor market provisions.

Both governments concluded negotiations on the free trade agreement last year, but it was formally signed in Canberra Wednesday by Australia’s trade minister, Andrew Robb, and China’s commerce minister, Gao Hucheng.

Gao said it was a “comprehensive, high-quality and balanced agreement” that was a milestone in relations between Australia and China.

“It is the highest degree of liberalization of all the FTAs China has so far signed with any economy,” he said.

The Australian prime minister, Tony Abbott, said the agreement would give each country “unprecedented access to each other’s markets”.

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