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August 4, 2021

FTA negotiations continue with China

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Australia will analyse other countries’ dealings with China as it works to secure a free trade agreement (FTA) with the Asian powerhouse, treasurer Joe Hockey says.

He has declined to say whether China – Australia’s largest trading partner – should be entitled to special concessions because of its significance as an investor.

‘I am not going to pre-empt the outcome of negotiations,’ Mr Hockey told Sky News on Sunday.

‘There are a lot of moving pieces in this machine at the moment and some of them involve looking carefully at the negotiations other countries are undertaking with China.’

After meeting with his Chinese counterpart, prime minister Tony Abbott last week said he hoped to finalise a FTA between the two countries within 12 months.

But the coalition government’s plan to reduce the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) trigger from $248 million to $15 million for the scrutiny of the offshore purchase of Australian land could be a sticking point.

China has sought an increase, not decrease, in the trigger.

‘The $15 million threshold applies to those countries that have not signed a free trade agreement with Australia and therefore we deal with those cases on a case-by-case basis,’ Mr Hockey said.

The treasurer said it was important to encourage foreign investment in Australia because the country could not fund its own needs, and infrastructure projects were a key to driving growth and maintaining a strong economy.

‘It is important that it be a two-way negotiation and a two-way investment flow,’ Mr Hockey said of the Australia-China relationship.

The treasurer was speaking from Washington DC where he is attending a Group of 20 (G20) finance ministers’ meeting.

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