After securing agreements with Korea and Japan, Tony Abbott has said Australia will “redouble” its efforts to negotiate a free trade pact with China.
The prime minister will arrive in Beijing today to attend key negotiations for an agreement with Australia’s most significant trading partner.
“We will do a deal with China if and when it is clearly in both our countries best interests to do so,” Abbott told reporters in Seoul on Tuesday.
Mr Abbott said he will work to reassure the Chinese government that Australia is “genuinely open for business” in regards to foreign investment.
A free-trade agreement between Australia and South Korea was signed in Seoul on Tuesday, with both parties agreeing to strengthen their defence ties and improve strategic relations. Mr Abbott also reiterated that Australia would support a reunification of the Korean peninsula.
Australia will now seek the trifecta of trade agreements in Beijing, with one of the key talking points being Australia’s foreign investment regime.
Abbott said the perception of Australia’s foreign investment attitude had been altered by the Coalition’s decision last year to veto an American takeover of GrainCorp. He pointed out that this perception was incorrect and emphasised that last year’s decision was regarding an American, not a Chinese, proposal.
Mr Abbott said there still remands “quite a bit more work to be done” to create an agreement with China similar to the ones signed in Tokyo and Seoul.
Under the FTAs with Korea and Japan, investors had to accept that any proposed farm buyouts over $15 million would be automatically scrutinised.
China reportedly doesn’t like this clause, but Mr Abbott said many significant Chinese bids had been approved by the federal government.
He ambitiously promised at the election to secure free trade deals with the economic powerhouses of North Asia – Japan, South Korea and China – within a year.