China and Australia on Monday signed a declaration of intent on a landmark free trade deal more than a decade in the making, opening up markets worth billions to Australia and loosening restrictions on Chinese investment.
The deal will open up Chinese markets to Australian farm exporters and the services sector while easing curbs on Chinese investment in resource-rich Australia.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Chinese President Xi Jinping, together with a retinue of government ministers, signed the memorandum of understanding during a ceremony in parliament in Canberra.
Australia is attempting to transition from a reliance on exports of minerals such as coal and iron ore to expanding its food and agricultural exports to a growing Asian middle class, moving from a “mining boom” to a “dining boom”.
China is already Australia’s top trading partner, with two-way trade of around A$150 billion ($130 billion) in 2013.
Paul Glasson, the National vice President of the Australia China Business Council, hailed the much-improved access for up to 40 service industries including health, law and aged care, as well as for agricultural products such as dairy, rice, wheat, wool and cotton.
Once the agreement is fully implemented, Australian Trade Minister Andrew Robb said in a statement, 99.9 percent of Australia’s current resource, energy and manufacturing exports will enjoy duty free entry into China.
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