Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Chinese President Xi Jinping have both expressed a desire to conclude a free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries.
The Australian Financial Review reports that, in a phone conversation, Xi told Rudd that he would like an “early conclusion” to negotiations.
And, according to a Rudd spokesperson, Rudd told Xi that a FTA would help increase trade and investment and promoting economic growth.
In recent times, newly appointed trade minister Richard Marles has also expressed the government’s enthusiasm for a deal.
The first round of FTA negotiations between Australia and China was held back in May, 2005. There have been 19 rounds of negotiations in all, yet agreement has not yet been reached.
From China’s point of view, one of the main hurdles to agreement has been the amount of regulations governing investments by state-owned enterprises.
These Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) regulations have come in for much criticism, even from the likes of Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett.
In addition, China would like greater access to Australia’s resources sector.
From Australia’s point of view, the government does not want to compromise on investment hurdles and is opposed to an “investor-state dispute settlement provision” that it believes would advantage foreign companies.
For his part, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has promised that a future Coalition government would sign an agreement within 12 months of being elected.