International affairs

China keen to speed up free trade agreement talks with Australia, says Chinese Ambassador

China’s new leadership is keen to speed up negotiation of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China and develop stronger bilateral ties between the two countries, China’s Ambassador to Australia, His Excellency Ma Zhaoxu, has told a CEDA forum in WA.

Ambassador Ma told the forum that while the resources sector would continue to be important to trade between the two countries, the FTA would provide opportunities to strengthen trade in areas such as education, legal services and accountancy.

"I think (the FTA) is one of the key issues in the bilateral relationship. I can tell you that both sides are very serious in negotiation of the FTA because we believe the FTA will be beneficial for both. I can also tell you that we are determined to speed up negotiations," Ambassador Ma said.

China would continue to develop two-way trade with WA which had grown by 27.6 per cent in 2013 to reach US70.6 billion, he said. WA exports to China were already expanding beyond resources into education and high quality food to meet demand as Chinese incomes rose.

Ambassador Ma told the forum that trade with China benefited all Australian households by A$13,400 a year.

There was also significant potential to develop non-financial Chinese investment in Australia in areas such as energy and resource development, agriculture, manufacturing, financial services, real estate and IT, he said.

While around 150,000 Chinese students had been studying in Australia over the past three years, it would be useful to boost the number of Australian students studying in China, Ambassador Ma said.

"Education cooperation is a very important part of our bilateral relations and it grows very fast… I encourage not only Chinese students to study here in Australia but I encourage Australian students to study in China and through this way we can have mutual understanding for the younger generations," Ambassador Ma said.

Information exchange and dialogue were also important for the relationship, he said.

"China is opening up and during this process we are facing challenges such as environmental protection, climate change, Medicare… we are facing many challenges you faced 30 years ago. I think in this area we need to exchange with our (Australian) colleagues," he said.

Click here to download Ambassador Ma's speech