Australia’s Abbott Aims to Complete Asian FTA’s Within 12 Months

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, whose Liberal-National coalition won government last month, said he wants to conclude free-trade agreements with countries including China, Japan and South Korea within a year.

“The working target I’ve got for these free-trade agreements is 12 months,” Abbott told reporters at the East Asia Summit in Brunei today. “It would be better to get them in 18 months than not to get them at all. Nevertheless, if you don’t set some kind of target you don’t have the incentive to get things done.”

Abbott announced in his Sept. 7 victory speech that Australia, the world’s 12th-largest economy, was again “open for business” after promoting his party’s financial-management credentials during the election campaign. He’s since met with global counterparts at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders summit in Bali before arriving for further trade talks in Brunei.

The Rhodes Scholar has appointed Trade Minister Andrew Robb to make headway on free-trade deals with countries such as India and Indonesia, alongside the broader Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. He’s said bilateral talks had stalled under the previous Labor government.

Negotiators still aim to complete the 12-nation TPP trade talks this year, leaders of the countries said in a statement Oct. 8. That agreement would link an area with about $28 trillion in annual economic output.

The success of regional bilateral trade deals was giving momentum to the TPP talks, Abbott said, while stressing his nation’s focus to conclude agreements with other nations was also important.

“In the case of the China agreement, that’s been meandering along since 2005,” Abbott said. “It’s very important that we accelerate it and bring it to a conclusion. The Japan and South Korea free-trade agreements have similarly been in train but aren’t resolved for a similar length of time.”

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