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

Australia: All eyes on China FTA
Ongoing regulatory uncertainty and political friction towards investment in Australian agribusiness by foreign state-owned entities could jeopardise plans to conclude Australia’s stalled free trade agreement (FTA) with China over the next year.
Kevin Rudd ’risks foreign investment’
Business has warned that Kevin Rudd’s populist rhetoric on foreign ownership could undermine Australia’s ability to secure free-trade agreements with key Asian trading partners and risks foreign investment that is crucial as the economy slows.
Car handouts ’hindering FTA with China’
The executive chairman of the company behind Australia’s top-selling cheese brand has warned that the Australian government’s support for the car industry is holding up a free-trade agreement with China.
Banks to thrive on China trade deal
The Australian financial services sector could be a major beneficiary if the Labor government is able to finalise the long-awaited free trade agreement with China.
Free-trade push may open door to China
Australia will undertake a major rethink of its investment stance towards China, with the Rudd government now prepared to discuss reducing hurdles to Chinese investment as it strives to conclude a free trade agreement with Beijing.
China welcomes faster FTA talks with Australia
China appreciated Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s positive attitude in advancing talks for a free trade pact, Shen Danyang, spokesman for the Ministry of Commerce, told a news briefing on Wednesday.
Moves to fast-track China trade deal
Kevin Rudd will accelerate efforts to stitch up a fresh trade deal with China ahead of the election and plans to send new Trade Minister Richard Marles to hold top-level talks in Beijing next week.
NZ Taiwan trade deal puts heat on China FTA
The Rudd government is likely to face new pressure from rural exporters to push ahead with a free trade agreement with China after New Zealand signed a breakthrough deal with Taiwan on Wednesday.
Xi, Rudd vow to speed up FTA talks
Chinese President Xi Jinping discussed bilateral relations with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd by phone on Monday, vowing to boost efforts for the conclusion of free trade talks between the two countries.
Australia’s Rudd urges China to act on trade deal
Australia’s newly reinstalled Prime Minister Kevin Rudd urged China - the country’s largest trading partner - to conclude the stalled bilateral free trade deal