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China wants fast-tracked trade deal

The Australian, Canberra

China wants fast-tracked trade deal

3 April 2006

(AAP) China wants a breakthrough on a free trade deal with Australia within two years, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao says.

Mr Wen is on a four-day visit to Australia, which included the signing of a nuclear safeguards agreement, paving the way for Australia to sell uranium to the emerging Asian superpower.

After a meeting with Prime Minister John Howard today, Mr Wen said talks on a free trade agreement (FTA) should be fast-tracked.

"On this issue, the Prime Minister and I reached an important consensus ... on the timetable for this negotiation," Mr Wen told reporters.

"In the next one or two years, China and Australia should work together to strive for breakthroughs on major issues related to the FTA negotiation so as to lay the foundation for the arrival of an overall agreement in that field.

"China and Australia should work together to enhance economic cooperation on all fields and at present what is more important for the two countries is to expedite a negotiation process for the establishment of a free trade area between the two sides."

Last year, during a visit by Mr Howard to Beijing, the two countries began negotiations on a free trade agreement which would help give Australian exporters access to China’s 1.3 billion consumers.

Australian negotiators have acknowledged the agreement could take years to finalise.