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China, Australia to hasten FTA talks

Source:   Time:

BEIJING, April 12 (Xinhua) -- China and Australia on Saturday voiced hope to hasten negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and strike a deal as soon as possible.

Meeting with entrepreneurs together with visiting Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang said economic and trade cooperation between the two countries is now on the fast track.

"It is a common aspiration of businessmen from both countries and also an important consensus reached by leaders of the two countries to speed up the FTA negotiations," Wang said.

The role of the government, Wang said, is to "build roads and bridges" for enterprises and provide them with convenient, safe and efficient services.

Wang called on both governments to meet halfway and show flexibility in the FTA negotiations to make tangible progress at an early date.

For his part, Abbott said development of economic and trade relations between Australia and China had moved rapidly in recent years and he expected an FTA deal at the earliest possible opportunity.

Initiated in 2005, talks between Australia and China on the FTA have gone through 19 rounds so far. If a deal is signed, it would be the first FTA between China and a major developed economy, giving Australian agricultural produce easier access to the enormous Chinese market.

China is Australia's largest trade partner and biggest export market, while Australia is Chinese enterprises' largest overseas investment destination country.

According to statistics from Chinese Ministry of Commerce, bilateral trade reached 136.4 billion U.S. dollars in 2013, up 11.5 percent from 2012.

With different natural resources and development histories, the Chinese and Australian economies are highly complementary, said Wang.

So long as the two sides open up their markets to one another, extend cooperation channels and innovate cooperation, China and Australia can make "the cake of mutual benefit" much bigger.

Abbott said Australia would like to be a long-term, stable provider of energy, resources and food to China, adding that he hopes to see more and more Chinese enterprises invest in Australia and promising to facilitate their business.

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