Trade Minister Andrew Robb says the government is confident it will strike a free trade agreement with China in time for President Xi Jinping's visit to Australia for the G20 meeting in November.
Mr Robb, who has successfully concluded free trade agreements with South Korea and Japan since the Coalition won government in September last year, said “both governments are determined to bring it to completion this year”.
“We are both, I think, getting more and more confident that we can complete it this year," he told Bloomberg.
“There is a political will, I think, on both sides, very much so, and there is certainly a need.”
The comments are the clearest signal yet that the Abbott government is inching towards meeting its goal of reaching a trio of agreements in its first full year in government.
Mr Robb said on Tuesday, after meeting with National Development and Reform Commission chairman Xu Shaoshi, that the influential Chinese body would “be active in helping to conclude that free trade agreement”.
“I would say that the initiative that Chairman Xu put forward on the working group, to develop an investment co-operation framework – the intent there is to have that concluded by the time President Xi visits the G20 and it will give us a significant road map going forward on even specific investment issues," he said.
That framework would significantly accelerate the investment relationship between the two countries, Mr Robb said.
“Most attention is on the very significant and most welcome investment from China to Australia over the last 10 to 14 years in particular, but of course Australia has $20 billion of investment in China and so much of our potential investment interest is in the services area and we discussed this at length," he said.
China is Australia's largest two-way trade partner in goods and services, with trade valued at $150 billion in 2013, and our largest export market for goods, with that trade valued at $95 billion in 2013.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade considers landing the deal to be Australia's top trade priority, as it will unlock significant opportunities for Australian agriculture, tourism, services and the resources industries.
The story Andrew Robb confident of China free trade agreement this year first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.