Australia and China have closed negotiations on a free trade agreement which will bring greater access to the massive market which is mainland China.
Tariffs on commodities including coal will be removed under the deal, according to the ABC, in a boost for the resources sector.
Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Robb and Chinese Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng will sign a Declaration of Intent this afternoon, undertaking to prepare the legal texts in both languages for signature.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott says he looks forward to making further announcements on the landmark agreement later today.
The agreement is expected to give Australian agriculture products greater access to the China market where the emerging middle class is demanding more western style food.
Services, including financial services, are expected to be big beneficiaries.
It is understood Australian insurers will have access to China’s lucrative third-party motor vehicle insurance scheme, fund managers will be able to manage Chinese investments, and Australian superannuation funds will be able to invest in the Chinese market.
Mr Abbott says the deal is good for Australian agriculture.
“It’s at least as good for our agriculture as New Zealand got about six or seven years ago – and their dairy exports to China have gone up from under half a billion to over three billion,” he said.
The deal will be worth up to $18 billion to the Australian economy over the next few years.
China is Australia’s major trading partner with $150 billion worth of two-way trade.
The free trade deal will phase out or eliminate a range of tariffs imposed on goods exported to China.
In return, Australia will give Chinese investors more open access to the Australian market.
For Australia’s resources sector, this means no more tariffs on aluminium, zinc, nickel, copper and uranium.
And the 3% on coking coal tariff and the 6% on thermal coal are expected to be phased out over two years.
Australia’s $13 billion dairy industry will be a big winner with tariffs removed for the booming baby milk powder market and for all dairy.
All of Australia’s prime food exports including beef, lamb, grains and seafood will benefit.
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