China FTA to boost jobs and investment

Chinese goods will be cheaper and tariffs on Australia’s key mining and farm exports will be scrapped under a free trade deal agreed by Prime Minister Tony Abbott and President Xi Jinping.


The agreement has been 10 years in the making with talks spanning the Howard, Rudd, Gillard and Abbott governments.

“It’s a good day for Australia, a good day for China, a good day for consumers and ultimately a good day for workers,” Mr Abbott said alongside Mr Xi in Canberra on Monday.

The agreement – which still requires a parliamentary inquiry and legislation – will ensure 85 per cent of all Australian exports will enter China tariff-free, rising to 93 per cent within four years and 95 per cent when it is in full force.

China is Australia’s top trading partner, with the two-way flow of goods and services exceeding $150 billion last year.

Mr Xi told parliament his country of 1.3 billion people was a “market of immense potential”.

Having come to power in 2013, he has set two goals: to double China’s 2010 GDP and per capita income by 2020 and to turn the country into “a modern socialist country that is prosperous, democratic, culturally harmonious” by the middle of the century.

“It takes 10 years to sharpen a sword,” he said of the agreement.

“This will provide a bigger market, more favourable conditions and better institutional support for our cooperation.”

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said he was concerned that sugar, rice, wheat, cotton and vegetable oils had been left out and punitive new Chinese tariffs on Australian thermal coal remained in place.

“We look forward to examining the detail of the final agreement,” he said.

Manufacturers, miners and the service sector including finance and tourism industries are expected to make gains.

When it comes into force, 92.9 per cent of China’s imports of resources, energy and mining products from Australia will enter duty-free, with most remaining tariffs eliminated within four years.

Chinese televisions, clothes and cars will be cheaper.

Tariffs will be abolished for the $13 billion dairy industry and beef and sheep farmers will benefit from the abolition of tariffs ranging from 12 to 25 per cent.

All tariffs on horticulture will be eliminated.

China will allow greater access for a range of professional services from engineering to aged care.

The Foreign Investment Review Board screening threshold for private Chinese companies investing in “non-sensitive” areas will be raised from $278 million to $1.078 billion.

The government will still be able to meet its election promise of screening agricultural land purchases valued from $15 million and agribusiness purchases from $53 million.

All bids by Chinese state-owned enterprises will be screened regardless of value.

Australia will provide visas for a range of Chinese contractors and executives for up to four years, and other business visitors for between three and six months.

China will in turn allow certain Australian executives and contractors to stay for up to three years.

ACTU president Ged Kearney said there was a risk that Australian jobs could be lost as labour mobility between the two countries was made easier.