The Australian, Canberra
FTA with China is on track, says Carr
By Michael Sainsbury
14 May 2012
Foreign Minister Bob Carr wants to "broaden and deepen" Australia’s relationship with China in the face of growing international competition.
In his first visit to China in the role, Senator Carr said he wanted to have a program of more "regular and specific " consultation with Australia’s largest trading partner.
"I wouldn’t spell that out at this stage, but we have a long-term commitments with China, we supply them with many raw materials but we are becoming more important in other areas and the two sides have got to be thinking about that," he told The Australian.
Other nations including the US and Britain have set up regular bilateral discussions on a broad range of issues, but Australia has failed to set up any such programs.
Canberra has come under increasing pressure to knit a stronger relationship with Beijing. David Olsson, chairman of the Australian Chamber of Commerce, this weekend accused the Gillard government of complacency.
Mr Carr was sanguine about China’s reaction to the decision by the government last November to allow US marines to be stationed on Australian soil for the first time. "I think it was relatively muted response," he told media in Shanghai. "China recognises that deep in Australian thinking there is support for a cornerstone relationship with the US."
Senator Carr began his visit in the commercial hub of Shanghai, meeting Vice-Mayor Tu Guangshao and pushing Australia as an investment destination.
Senator Carr and Mr Tu also discussed better co-operation in a number of sectors, including financial services. He added that seven-year-long talks between Australia and China about a free trade agreement had progressed.
"(Trade Minister) Craig Emerson was upbeat about the FTA — it seems to be gathering pace," he said.
Senator Carr said he would be raising human rights issues with the Chinese, and the case of blind activist Chen Guangcheng had been on Australia’s agenda for some years.
"Relations with China are strong enough and diverse enough to have the presence of human rights on the agenda," he said.