Visiting Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said on Thursday that the China-Australia Free Trade Area (FTA) negotiations are making steady progress.
"The negotiations are progressing well and we hope that they will move ahead significantly during Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to Australia in September this year," Downer told a briefing at the end of his four-day trip to China.
Australia was one of the first Western countries to initiate FTA negotiations with China. The FTA negotiations, which began in 2005, have now entered a substantive phrase.
The 8th round of talks concluded in Beijing last week with the sides reaching consensus on some sections of the FTA agreement.
"I think a successful negotiation will not only boost trade between China and Australia, which is already enormous, but also stimulate investment by each country," Downer said.
China-Australia trade volume has increased sharply from less than US$100 million in 1972 when the two countries forged diplomatic ties to 5 billion Australian dollars in 2006.
Downer said that China-Australia ties were "at their best since 1972."
He said the two countries had pledged to boost cooperation on environmental protection, climate change and clean energy.
Downer's official visit to China from April 2 to 5 was made at the invitation of Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing.
(Xinhua News Agency April 6, 2007)