China, Australia Leaders Renew Push for Trade Pact
Chinese President Xi Jinping called for an "early conclusion" to the negotiations for a Sino-Australian trade pact in conversations with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd last week, prompting speculation that the long-running talks could soon be ramping up.
Trade negotiations between the two countries started in May 2005; 19 rounds later, the talks remain unfinished. Rudd, who returned to office last month and is facing federal elections later this year, has said that the pact with Beijing is a key priority for his administration.
Among the remaining areas of disagreement, media reports say, is China's push for lower regulatory hurdles for investments by state-owned enterprises. Canberra, meanwhile, has reportedly opposed Beijing's push for an investor-state dispute settlement provision - something which Australian officials argue could give an unfair advantage to foreign companies.
New Zealand has already signed an FTA with China, which observers say has ramped up the pressure for Australia to conclude a deal of its own. China is currently Australia's largest trading partner, accounting for A$125 billion (US$115.6 billion, at today's exchange rate) in exports in 2012.
ICTSD reporting; "Rudd, Xi push for China trade deal," AUSTRALIAN FINANCIAL REVIEW, 9 July 2013; "NZ Taiwan trade deal puts heat on China FTA," AUSTRALIAN FINANCIAL REVIEW, 11 July 2013.