The Australia-China free trade agreement (FTA) has stalled again, according to the SMH this morning, which says that the lack of movement over the past 9 years on concessions for Australia’s agricultural products has the Prime Minister ready to walk away from the deal.
So far China has not opened up access for Australia’s beef, lamb, dairy, horticulture, wine and other farm products to the level granted to New Zealand during recent negotiations. A source told the SMH that the Government needs “to get an agriculture deal that we can sell”.
Prime Minster Abbott has said he would like to conclude the deal with Chinese President Xi Jinping while he is in Brisbane for the G20 meeting next month, so time is running out. But history shows that concessions are often made at the last minute in these deals.
Underscoring this, Trade Minister Andrew Robb said the Government is “not for walking away”.
“Too much work has been done and we are too far down the track to a very good agreement. I will keep negotiating until we can conclude such an agreement.”
Agricultural Minister Barnaby Joyce recently said that Australia simply doesn’t have the capacity to be the food bowl of Asia. That should give Chinese negotiators some comfort that any local producers they are trying to protect should not be adversely impacted by a FTA with Australia.
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