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Sino-Australian trade ties can be stronger
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Australian Trade Minister Simon Crean said that trade relations with China has been strong and can be even stronger in the future.

"Australia's relationship with China has gone from strength-to-strength since the establishment of diplomatic relations more than35 years ago. Two-way trade with China reached 63.8 billion Australian dollars (46.4 billion U.S. dollars) in 2007-08, a 16.5 percent increase on 2006-07," Crean told Xinhua in an interview recently.

He said this success demonstrates the strong commitment of both countries to advancing the economic relationship. "As Minister for Trade, I always believe more can be done and the trade relationship between the two nations can become stronger and closer."

Talking about the bilateral trade ties, Crean said a lot has been achieved in the trade areas between the two countries in recent years. China has become Australia's largest trading partner. It is also Australia's second largest export market, accounting for 13.5 percent of total exports of Australia.

He mentioned the services exports to China, which have averaged an annual growth of 20 percent over the past five years and reached 4.4 billion Australian dollars in 2007-08. Education and recreational travel dominate Australia's service exports to China, accounting for over 80 percent of services exports in recent years.

Crean noted that another important dimension to Australia's economic partnership with China has been the growth in bilateral investment.

According to the trade minister, China was the 17th largest investor in Australia in 2007 with total investment of 6.2 billion Australian dollars. At the same time, China was Australia's 14th largest investment destination with investment of 5.2 billion dollars.

Crean also looked forward to future economic cooperation with China, saying one of the keys to boosting the relationship was the successful negotiation of a free trade agreement.

He said these FTA negotiations have been challenging, given that this would be China's first FTA with a country that has extensive trade interests, covering services, agriculture, resources and manufactures.

"Continued engagement on the negotiations at the political level remains the key to overcoming these challenges, with a focus on the big picture. In particular, the great scope for gains on both sides from a comprehensive and ambitious agreement," he stressed.

Concluding a quality FTA with China would provide a massive boost to the trading relationship and benefit both economies, the minister said, adding China would secure access to the materials, services and technologies it needs to sustain its economic growth while Australia would get better access to the Chinese market across goods, services and investment.

Crean also said the Australian government welcomed China's decisive response to the global economic slowdown through its 586 billion U.S. dollars fiscal stimulus package. "The Chinese response is likely to benefit Australian commodity exporters for whom China will remain a key market."

(Xinhua News Agency December 26, 2008)

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