Australia Looking to Sign China Free Trade Deal by Year-End

Australia is looking to conclude decade-long negotiations on a free-trade agreement with China by November, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said.

Disagreements persist for now, with Australia seeking greater access to China’s agricultural market and Chinese leaders pushing for increased investment opportunities, Bishop said in an interview at the Boao Forum in Hainan province.

“We’ve had 19 rounds of negotiations since 2005 and I think both sides agree that the 20th round is about time to conclude an agreement,” she said.

The deal could potentially lower barriers for Chinese investments in developing Australia’s natural resources and public infrastructure. These include a requirement where foreign investments larger than A$248 million ($234 million) trigger an automatic relook by the Foreign Investment Review Board.

That condition was eliminated in two recent free-trade agreements Australia signed with Japan and South Korea. Japan, China and South Korea buy more of Australia’s iron ore, coal and other exports than all others combined. An agreement with the U.S. elevated the threshold that causes a review to more than $1 billion.

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