The Guardian 27 April, 2005

China, Australia to start FTA talks

China’s Xinhua news agency made a positive assessment of PM Howard’s visit to China last week during which the decision was taken to commence discussions on a free trade agreement.

It said that trade between the two countries has grown fast over the past years. China is now Australia’s third largest trade partner, second largest export market and second largest origin of imports.

“China and Australia are important countries in the Asia-Pacific region and share wide-ranging common interests in safeguarding regional peace and promoting common prosperity”, said China’s Premier Wen Jiabao.

“In the current volatile international environment, to further bilateral overall cooperation is in the fundamental interests of the two countries and the two peoples, and is conducive to peace and development in the Asian-Pacific region”, he said.

Wen made a four-point proposal on the future development of bilateral relations.

The first is to enhance mutual political trust. China will enhance political relations with Australia on the basis of mutual respect, equality and reciprocity, and strengthen communication on major issues of common concern.

The second is to actively and properly push forward bilateral free trade between the two countries on the principle of mutual benefits.

The third is to make efforts to further bilateral reciprocal co­-operation. The Chinese government encourages and supports mutual investment and emphasises bilateral cooperation in agriculture, energy and resources development.

The fourth is to strengthen security consultations. The Chinese side will continue to strengthen consultations and coordination with Australia on major international and regional issues and jointly promote peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific.

Howard said Australia-China relations have witnessed comprehensive development in recent years with smooth cooperation in various fields, particularly mentioning the fruitful energy cooperation which has become an important component of bilateral economic and trade cooperation.

Howard said Australia will initiate negotiations on a free trade agreement so as to further bilateral economic and trade cooperation.

He promised that the Australian Government’s adherence to the “one-China” policy will remain unchanged.

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