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China, Australia to hold new round of FTA talks
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China and Australia were set to hold a new round of free trade talks in the next few days, Australia's treasurer said in Beijing Wednesday.

The 11th round of talks on a free trade agreement (FTA) would take place in Beijing in "a few days," Wayne Swan said in a speech at the Central Party School.

He did not give a specific date. Officials at the Australian Embassy in Beijing could not confirm the date either.

Swan said the China-Australia FTA negotiation was "still in the early days," but both sides held positive attitudes.

A FTA with China could help both countries "take mutual economic engagement to new levels" and "provide an important framework for closer economic ties into the future," Swan told an audience of Communist Party officials.

Talks held last year achieved little progress, he said. After the China visit of Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in April, the two countries agreed to "give new urgency and attention to the discussions."

Swan said current obstacles remained on the access of Australian financial services into the Chinese market, and direct bilateral investment.

He said financial, professional and educational services,as well as investment in the mining sector,would be priorities for Australia in the negotiations.

China and Australia launched FTA talks in May 2005. Analysts said issues of agriculture and market access of services were still unsolved after the 10th round of talks in November.

China is Australia's largest trading partner and its second largest export destination after Japan.

The trade volume between the two countries reached 43.8 billion U.S. dollars in 2007, statistics from China's Ministry of Commerce show.

(Xinhua News Agency June 12, 2008)

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