Abbott met with Chinese president Xi Jinping at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings in Bali this week and told reporters he was confident that the FTA negotiations could be finalised by the end of 2014.
China and Australia have been neogtiating an FTA since 2005, with the process currently stalled over issues related to agriculture and investments by state-owned enterprises.
However, both politicians indicated a desire to move forward with negotiations, and Abbott has reportedly accepted an invitation to visit China in the middle of next year.
Australia’s National Farmers Federation welcomed the government’s renewed commitment to trade negotiations with China, but warned against “signing a deal at any cost”.
“Critically, any free trade agreement with China – like those in negotiations with Japan and South Korea – must take a holistic view of Australian agriculture and not leave key agricultural commodities out,” said NFF president Duncan Fraser.
“China is already a major trading partner for Australia – our second-biggest agricultural market – and there are major opportunities for our farmers in finalising a deal, provided it provides positive outcomes for our dairy, red meat, pork, rice, grains and sugar industries.”
Fraser added that foreign investment was “likely to become a bargaining chip” in the finalisation of the FTA, and could be beneficial for Australian agriculture if done openly and transparently.
“If this can be achieved, and a mutually beneficially agreement reached on the free trade agreement with China, then Australian farmers stand to gain,” he explained.