Australia's free trade agreement with China to go ahead after Labor strikes deal on workers

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Australia’s free trade agreement with China will pass the nation’s parliament after a political impasse over the job protection was resolved.

The Australian reports trade minister Andrew Robb and Labor’s Penny Wong reached agreement last night. The deal has now reportedly been approved by the Labor caucus this morning.

The key change is the government accepting labour market tests on all work agreements, whereas previously the tests would only apply to major projects. There were concern Chinese businesses could undercut the Australian workforce by importing staff.

In return Labor dropped a demand for a minimum pay of $57,000 for skilled migrant workers on 457 visas, agreeing instead that pay be set at market rates.

The compromise is a significant win for the Coalition under the fresh leadership of Malcolm Turnbull. Labor’s opposition to what Bill Shorten described as a “dud deal” was portrayed as “racist” protectionism by Coalition supporters, and Tony Abbott accused Shorten of being “hog-tied … to the union movement”.

China is Australia’s largest trading partner with trade worth around $160 billion annually. The deal will see 95% of Australian exports eventually being tariff-free, with significant benefits for the agricultural and resources sectors.

Head over to The Australian for more >>

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