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Australia, China FTA talks progressing rapidly

Australia, China FTA talks progressing rapidly

Asia Times Online: 19 March 2004

PERTH - Talks on a free trade agreement between Australia and China are moving faster than was anticipated, foreign minister Alexander Downer said today.

Mr Downer told a Perth business breakfast the initial timetable for a study into the possibility of an agreement with the two countries may have been too conservative.

And he said that the mood of the talks between the two countries was so good that the feasibility study might be completed before the scheduled date of October 2005.

"When President Hu Jintao came to Canberra (last October) we agreed to set up a scoping study, to look at whether a free trade agreement with China is appropriate, and that work has started," Mr Downer said.

"The mood in the discussions between Australia and China on these issues is not only very good, but is moving forward very rapidly."

"I think the original timetable we set for the conclusion of this scoping study was around October 2005 - I think we will do better than that."

China is currently Australia’s third-largest trading partner, while Australia is China’s ninth-largest trading partner.

Last year, the Gorgon Gas Venture and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation signed a A$30 billion (US$22 billion) deal for the country to buy up to 100 million tons of gas over 25 years.

Mr Downer said Australia and China were coming to the conclusion they should speed up talks toward a free trade agreement, for the benefit of both.

"There are very real prospects for Australia and China here," Mr Downer said.

"There is mutual benefit in exploring that relationship, and we ought to do it a little faster than we are doing now."

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