Declaration of Intent for free trade signed with China

THE DETAILS of the trade agreement reached after nine years of talks with China are still unclear after Prime Minister Tony Abbott signed a "declaration of intent" on Monday.

Mr Abbott welcomed Chinese President Xi Jinping to Canberra on Monday after the Chinese leader attended the G20 in Brisbane.

But while some details of the deal have been released to select media outlets, the specific impacts of the deal on agriculture, mining and manufacturing in Australia is yet to be released.

Reports on the deal on Monday said it included terms that allowed 85% of all Australian exports to enter China "tariff-free", to rise to 93% in four years.

It also reportedly gave China a $1 billion ceiling on foreign investment review board scrutiny of private Chinese investments in Australian business.

However, that ceiling - replicating the threshold for scrutiny of private American investments - came with added scrutiny of government-owned Chinese investments over $15 million in agricultural land.

Mr Abbott told parliament that such concessions, without specifying trade terms, were important because "we trade with people when we need them, but we invest with people when we trust them".

He said while there were differences of government, the Australian-China relationship had "become a model of how two peoples and two countries can complement each other".

President Xi told parliament that "true friendship" only existed when there were binding agreements to pursue "common goals".

Trade Minister Andrew Robb, who led talks with China on the deal, said it would also include removing tariffs on 99% of Australian resource exports, lower dairy tariffs over four to 11 years and similar for beef exports and horticulture.

However, the full details are yet to be made public and the signing of the declaration of intent on Monday marks the official end of talks, before the final terms of the agreement are released.

China is already Australia's largest trading partner and its private industry one of the nation's largest foreign investors.

Mr Abbott earlier told 2GB Radio the deal was going to be signed, but would not come into force until examined by a parliamentary committee, and would likely also involve legislative change to enact some of the terms of the deal.


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