China’s FTAs with Korea and Australia come into force

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: International trade, China

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock
Two landmark free-trade agreements involving China came into effect this weekend. Twenty per cent of trade with Korea will now become tariff free, while almost all Australian goods will enter China free of duty, and all Chinese exports to Australia will enjoy zero-tariff treatment.

The Korea deal is at a starting point which will see tariffs removed from 70% of bilateral trade within a decade. This will increase to 90% after a further 10 years.

The FTA's importance reaches beyond trade as it promotes competition and cooperation between businesses in China and Korea, making it a step towards regional integration, Xinhua reports.

"It would be oversimplifying to view the FTA just as a trade agreement. As [Korean] businesses get a stronger presence in China, and vice-versa, both will eventually grow stronger​," Liu Wen, professor at Shandong University, told China’s official news agency.

China is not anticipating a trade surplus through the FTA, unlike Korea, which has maintained a large surplus that peaked at US$91bn in 2013. 

As the world’s biggest trading nation, China is also much less dependent on bilateral trade than Korea, for which its northern neighbour is also its biggest trading partner. Business between the two countries stood at US$240bn in 2014 and is expected to reach US$300bn next year, according to government figures.

The deal is also important for both countries as neither is a signatory of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, whose draft was agreed this year by a number of Korea and China’s neighbours.

Meanwhile, the trade deal between Beijing and Canberra was lauded as "historic​" and "landmark​" by Australia’s trade minister, Andrew Robb after it was estimated that more than A$90bn (US$64bn) worth of Australian exports to China would become free of duty next year.

Once the agreement is fully implemented, 96% of Australian goods will enter China would out accruing duty, and all goods from China will have no tariffs imposed at Australian ports.

"The signing of the ‘ChAFTA’ will provide a better platform and an improved institutional guarantee for the two countries to complement each other with advantages and conduct close win-win cooperation​," Chinese President Xi Jinping said when the deal was signed in Canberra in June.

Robb said tariffs had been cut on a range of Australian exports including dairy, beef, lamb, wine, seafood, fruit and vegetables, processed foods, vitamins and health products.

"This historic agreement with our biggest trading partner will support future economic growth, job creation and higher living standards through increased goods and services trade, and investment​. 

China, with its population of 1.3bn people and rapidly rising middle class, presents enormous opportunities for Australian businesses well into the future​," Robb said.

The Australian food industry has largely been in support of the deal, with apex body the Australian Food and Grocery Council calling it vital for the future of manufacturing jobs in Australia. 

The China FTA is vital for Australia’s largest manufacturing sector—food and grocery processing—to access the world’s second largest economy​,” said Gary Dawson, AFGC’s chief executive.

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