The Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop said that she had "reaffirmed, with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Australia's commitment to conclude a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) by the end of this year," during the second Australia-China Foreign and Strategic Dialogue in Sydney on September 7.

However, following the latest round of negotiations held in Beijing from September 1-5, China's Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM), merely called the FTA talks "pragmatic and frank," with "positive and constructive progress" having been made.

MOFCOM also confirmed that "the two sides will maintain in close contact on all the relevant issues, and will make further efforts to narrow their differences in order to sign the agreement as soon as possible."

Discussions toward an FTA had started in 2005, but were boosted in April this year when Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott called for negotiations on the FTA to be speeded up.

While there has still been no indication as to what differences remain between the two sides in the trade talks, improved market access for its agricultural products into China has been a prominent Australian concern since FTA discussions began, while the Chinese Government has expressed the hope that Australia could provide more favorable conditions for Chinese investment, that was banned from certain sensitive projects.

China is already Australia's biggest market, with mineral resources, energy and food top of its export list. The countries' total trade reached over USD135bn last year, but investment is of equal importance as Australia is also the largest overseas investment destination for Chinese companies.

Source: Tax News