Australian trade minister Andrew Robb departs for China to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings in Beijing and to hold high-level talks on a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China,the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said on Thursday.
During his visit, Robb is expected to meet with key Chinese counterparts for talks to advance negotiations for the FTA with Australia's biggest trading partner.
"After almost a decade, the FTA negotiations have now reached an advanced stage, but there are critical issues still to be worked through if we are to fulfill our objective of a satisfactory conclusion this year and making further positive progress will be a primary focus of my visit," Robb was quoted as saying.
Robb will participate in an APEC ministerial meeting on Nov. 7- 8.
APEC is an important economic forum in the Asia Pacific with 21 economies accounting for 58 percent of global GDP and more than two-thirds of Australia's trade in goods and services. The ministerial meeting followed by the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting on Nov. 10-11 provides an opportunity to review the forum's trade and economic work and to consider challenges facing member economies.
Robb said APEC offers a platform to highlight the importance of getting the World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement back on track.
"APEC has a good record on trade facilitation and is well- placed to demonstrate the benefits for business of the WTO Agreement."
This year Australia has led work on a number of APEC initiatives in line with the Australian government's economic priorities. "We have promoted the opening of services markets to make global value chains more efficient and supported reforms to enable the faster and cheaper movement of Australian goods within regional supply chains," Robb said.
Being the host of the Group of 20 (G20) summit later this month, Australia has also worked closely with China as 2014 APEC host to ensure that the like-minded approach Australia and China take to the work programs of the two forums translates into practical outcomes for business.
"A key focus for Australia's G20 leadership is to promote and enable private sector-led growth. APEC's work on trade, structural reform and infrastructure financing reinforces this G20 agenda at the regional level," the minister said.
He said Australia was supportive of APEC's long-term goal of an FTA of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP).
"Australia will continue to support efforts towards this goal, including a comprehensive study on issues relevant to the development of the FTAAP," he said.