CANBERRA, Australia, Jun 17 – Australia and China signed a landmark trade deal Wednesday after a decade of talks, providing a boon for growth and jobs by abolishing tariffs across a raft of sectors.
Trade Minister Andrew Robb and visiting Chinese Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng formally inked the document in Canberra, ending years of often difficult and protracted negotiations.
“The leaders of our two countries have attached great importance to the signing of this document,” said Gao. “It is a milestone in bilateral relations.”
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott called it “a momentous and historic day for our two countries”.
“It will change our countries for the better, it will change our region for the better, it will change our world for the better,” he said. “This agreement will give our nations unprecedented access to each other’s markets.”
China is Australia’s biggest trading partner, with the two-way flow exceeding Aus$160 billion (US$123 billion) annually.
Under the deal more than 85 percent of Australian goods entering the country will carry no penalty, rising to 95 percent in coming years.
With Australia having already sealed similar pacts with Japan and South Korea, a large percentage of Australian exports will soon be tariff-free.
Australian businesses currently face charges of up to 40 percent on goods sent to China, but under the deal penalties on virtually all resources and energy products – a key plank in the trade relationship and among Australia’s top exports – will be abolished.
Duties will also be lifted on agricultural exports including wine, meat, seafood, and dairy products to feed China’s growing middle class.
In return, Australia will remove the existing five percent tariff on Chinese electronics and whitegoods, meaning cheaper goods for Australian consumers but some reduction in revenue.
China also won concessions on foreign investment, with the threshold for government review to be lifted in most areas apart from agricultural land and agribusiness.