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Optimism Over China-Australia Trade Agreement
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Optimism about agreement being reached on a China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) was expressed by visiting Australian Prime Minister, John Howard at a symposium Wednesday.

Howard said the establishment of a China-Australia free trade zone would be significant for both countries and he believed positive progress would be made despite some existing difficulties.

He attended a symposium on the China-Australia FTA in Shenzhen, in south China's Guangdong Province, on Wednesday afternoon.

Before that, he and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao opened the first ever Sino-Australian liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in Shenzhen.

Howard said multilateral trade in the world was unsteady and the FTA was a safe way to consolidate and develop bilateral economic and trade relations.

This was of great significance to both Australia and China, he said, adding the two countries could further expand their cooperation, not only in energy, but also in finance, the service sector and education.

The establishment of a free trade zone would be an effective way to promote bilateral cooperation in these fields, he said.

Howard spoke highly of China's rapid economic development and said Australia wished to establish close ties of cooperation in economy, trade and politics.

Although the two countries had different social systems they could strengthen their shared interests through cooperation, he added.

Negotiations on the FTA between China and Australia have gone through five rounds. The two countries still have differences in some fields including agriculture and the service industries.

A senior official of the Communist Party of China (CPC) said at the symposium he hoped China-Australia FTA negotiations would settle China's concern over agriculture.

Zhang Dejiang, member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and secretary of the CPC Committee of Guangdong Province, said the FTA would be beneficial to both countries. .

He said as long as the two sides coordinated their efforts and properly settled each other's concerns the FTA negotiations could finally be concluded.

China and Australia had reached agreement on the principles and framework for the negotiations, Zhang explained. "The two sides also exchanged views on sensitive issues which has promoted mutual understanding," he added.

Zhang held that the two countries were strongly compatible in their industrial structure and there remained room for the opening up of both countries' markets.

Howard met with Zhang after attending the symposium. Zhang said the economic and trade exchanges and cooperation between Guangdong Province and Australia had become closer and closer in recent years.

Zhang expressed his hope to further cooperation with Australia in fields such as resources, energy, science and technology and tourism.

Howard said he was deeply impressed by the rapid economic and social growth and Australia and Guangdong should work well together on the LNG project. He said he hoped the there could be further cooperation in areas such as education and culture.

(Xinhua News Agency June 29, 2006)

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