Wed Jun 8 2005
Govt to get tough on China trade issues
Trade Minister Mark Vaile signalled a major assault on tariffs, quarantine systems and intellectual property laws as part of free trade negotiations with China.
In a major speech outlining the issues Australia will target in the talks, Mr Vaile said even nuisance tariffs on major commodities such as aluminium and nickel should go because of the amount sent to China.
And he gave his clearest indication yet that China would have to substantially boost its intellectual property laws and enforcement of them.
Australia and China have begun formal free trade agreement (FTA) talks, with meetings between the two countries’ negotiation teams due later in the year.
A preliminary study has found an FTA would boost the Australian economy by up to $23 billion by 2015, and the Chinese economy by up to $83 billion.
Mr Vaile said negotiations would be tough, outlining a string of major concerns Australia wanted addressed as part of the deal.
He said a string of border problems hindered Australian exports, including the tariffs on wool, wheat, sugar, aluminium and nickel.
Import licensing, customs valuations and quarantine arrangements all had to be addressed, including simple labelling requirements.
"Our wine industry continues to face onerous labelling and packaging restrictions on exports to China as well as excessive and expensive bureaucratic approval processes," he said.
Mr Vaile said there were a range of beyond-the-border issues that China would also have to address in the FTA.
"An array of regulations limits the delivery of Australian services into China, including restrictions on establishing a commercial presence and branch offices and excessive capitalisation requirements," he said.
"Our service providers also face overly burdensome customs administrative procedures and problems in getting the experience, qualifications and skills of Australian professionals recognised which limits the ability to get the right professionals into China to deliver a service.
"These are issues which affect most services sectors, including banking, telecommunications, mining, construction, freight logistics, transport, education and tourism as well as professional services such as architecture, legal and accountancy."
Intellectual property is looming as one of the most contentious issues facing the FTA, with serious concerns held by Australia about China’s ability to stop piracy.
Mr Vaile said intellectual property, and transparency of government regulations, had to be up for negotiation.
"Particular transparency-related concerns raised by industry include the application of taxes, legal and financial systems; the inconsistent enforcement of import duties as well as unclear and conflicting standards across provinces," he said.
"The fact that regulations or administrative guidelines are not always publicly available makes it difficult to determine and meet any compliance requirements."
The government has already started talks with Australian industries about what they want from the FTA, with planned round table meetings in Adelaide and Melbourne.
Mr Vaile said although talks had begun, that did not mean an FTA would be delivered. Australia would weigh up the pros and cons at a later date.
"The Government will not enter into an agreement that it does not think is in Australia’s national interest," he said.