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            october 15, 2019

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China and Australia look forward to free trade agreement


Australia's Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Robb says that Canberra and Beijing are determined to sign a free trade agreement by the end of the year, after meeting with Chinese leaders for talks in Beijing.
For years there have been attempts to strike a bilateral trade deal, and so far there has been little sign of a breakthrough despite Prime Minister Tony Abbott's expressed intent to seal an agreement before November, reported Reuters.
According to Mr Robb, the deal with China was on track, but he declined to give details of the negotiations, saying he didn't want to "put his cards on the table."
"The conclusion was that it was doable this year. It could be completed, and that both governments are determined to bring it to completion later this year," Mr Robb said after meeting with the chairman of China's National Development and Reform Commission, Xu Shaoshi.
"There is a negotiation, so anything can happen. But we're both confident and we went through in some detail what ground had to be covered, including agriculture," Mr Robb told reporters.
Free trade talks have stumbled amid Beijing's concerns over opening markets to Australian food. There are fears in Australia that an influx of cheap Chinese goods could threaten domestic producers facing a strong local currency and high costs.
China has also expressed worries over Australia's stringent approval process on foreign investment by state-owned enterprises.
Canberra, like many of China's trading partners, wants Beijing to improve access to key industries in which foreign investment is currently restricted.

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