logo logo


A bilateral trade agreement between Australia and China was finalised in 2015.

This agreement is controversial in Australia because it increases entry of temporary Chinese workers in a large number of occupations, without testing first if local workers are available. There are also provisions for Chinese companies with projects worth over $150 million to negotiate the number of foreign workers they bring in as well as their pay and conditions. This is the first time an arrangement which could allow most of the workforce to be imported has been included in any Australian trade agreement. It is unclear whether recent changes to the regulations of Australia’s Migration Act will be sufficient to ensure that such workers are not exploited.

Temporary migrant workers in Australia are already at a high risk of exploitation. There have been a number of studies showing exploitation of temporary workers, working long hours in dangerous conditions at less than minimum wages. Without greater protections in place there are concerns that increased numbers of temporary workers negotiated through trade agreements could lead to more cases of exploitation.

One important impact of the agreement is how it will open the doors to more Chinese investment in Australian agriculture. China is looking to secure its food supply by investing in agribusiness abroad, whether by investing directly in farms or buying into supply chains. Australia is an important source of meat and to a lesser extent dairy for China, and so ChAFTA is expected to boost Chinese deals in Australia’s livestock industry.

The ChAFTA is also controversial because it contains Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions, which allow foreign investors to bypass national courts and sue governments before an arbitration tribunal for compensation if they can argue that changes to law or policy harm their investment. This gives increased power to corporations at the expense of democracy and the public interest.

Contributed by AFTINET

last update: March 2016
Photo: PughPugh/CC BY 2.0

China to repeal coal tariff after FTA
China has promised to repeal the newly introduced tariff on Australia coal imports once a free trade agreement between the two countries is finalised.
Foreign investment concerns loom large as Federal Trade Minister Andrew Robb talks up China Free Trade Agreement
Trade Minister Robb went to talk about the looming China-Australia FTA with dairy farmers, but they wanted to talk about China buying Australian farmland and taking over their farms instead.
China tariff unwanted hiccup: Abbott
China’s surprise decision during free trade talks to impose tariffs on Australian coal shows the importance of getting an agreement soon, Prime Minister Tony Abbott says.
Critical China free trade agreement based on what?
How can the government of Australia evaluate gains to agriculture from a China free trade agreement if it uses flawed statistical calculations?
Bar set low for a ‘do no harm’ China-Australia FTA
The excitement behind the likely conclusion of an agreement — the speculation is a grand signing will take place in mid-November when President Xi Jinping will be in Brisbane for the G20 meeting — will exceed the actual significance of such an agreement.
Abbott’s line in sand on China FTA
Australia is prepared to walk away from a much touted free trade agreement (FTA) with China unless there are major last-minute concessions on farm products, according to well-placed government sources.
Minister: Australia’s “food bowl of Asia” no threat to Chinese farmers
Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce is touring China in a bid to assuage local farmers’ fears over Australia’s ambition to be the “food bowl of Asia” as the two countries attempt to reach a conclusion to talks over a free-trade agreement.
Australia-China trade deal close
Australia Thursday said it hopes to complete an elusive free trade agreement (FTA) with its top export partner China when President Xi Jinping visits in November.
Farmers take to Twitter with FTA fight
Australian dairy farmers fight hard for better access to China’s market under the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement, launching a social media campaign that reached 1.6 million Twitter users.
Palmer’s China comments could scupper trade deal
The Abbott government in Australia was close to negotiating a free trade agreement with China. That is, until Clive Palmer got involved.