CRAIG L THOMSON
Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Robb will meet with his Chinese counterparts at the APEC Summit seeking to have a free trade agreement with China signed at the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Brisbane.
In a statement issued on his website, Mr Robb said that Free Trade negotiations had reached an advanced stage.
“As host of the G20 this year, Australia has worked closely with China as 2014 APEC host to ensure that the like-minded approach Australia and China take to the work programs of the two forums translates into practical outcomes for business, ” Mr Robb said.
“A key focus for Australia’s G20 leadership is to promote and enable private sector led growth.”
Opposition spokesperson for Trade and Investment Penny Wong said in a statement that a Free Trade Agreement must achieve genuine market openings for Australian exporters and support Australian jobs.
“Labor is concerned at the reports from Beijing that the government is preparing to cut Australian Sugar producers out of the proposed Free Trade Agreement with China,” Ms Wong said.
However, Canegrowers Australia Head of Economics Warren Males said he could see little reason why sugar producers would be excluded from a Free Trade Agreement.
“China imports three to four million tonnes of sugar each year,” Mr Males said.
“We are asking to be included in any negotiated Free Trade Agreement with China and remain hopeful that we will have improved access to the Chinese market.”
Ms Wong also said Labor was concerned that a Free Trade Agreement may fail to put Australia’s dairy industry on a competitive footing with the New Zealand dairy industry in the Chinese market.
Australian Dairy Farmers President Noel Campbell said a Free Trade Agreement with China that opens up markets and delivers significant commercial opportunities is an important priority for the dairy industry.
“As dairy farmers and as an industry we can again grow and prosper with the right access to the right markets,” Mr Campbell said.
“At a time when growth opportunities are constrained domestically, it will be key international markets like China that will ultimately offer a way forward for Australian dairy.”
A Free Trade Agreement the Abbott government reached with Japan in April this year has been criticised by some Australian farm groups for failing to deliver significant gains for local food producers.