The Abbott government is getting all the right signs from China that they’re keen to fast-track talks on a free trade deal with Australia.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has been personally assured by Premier Li Keqiang that China is determined to conclude negotiations on a deal as soon as possible.
That’s good news for Mr Abbott, who arrives in China having clinched agreements with South Korea and Japan and wants to redouble efforts to get Beijing across the line.
China remains the missing piece in his so-called trade trifecta and he wants to fulfil an election promise by delivering the three deals by year’s end.
He’ll use his visit to China to promote Australia’s trade and investment potential, and will take his message directly to economic leaders on Wednesday in an address to the Boao Forum.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister Josh Frydenberg said it was vital Australia secured a free trade deal with its largest trading partner.
“We will be pushing very hard to do that as fast as possible,” he said in Shanghai.
“I must say, the Chinese leadership have made it very clear that they want to accelerate negotiations with Australia too.”
Mr Frydenberg has arrived in Shanghai ahead of the prime minister to promote the inaugural “Australia Week in China” trade expo, which is being run across four major Chinese cities.
The government wants to show China it means business and has sent its largest ever trade delegation, stacked with corporate heavyweights, to drive its message home.
All the state premiers and visiting delegates will converge on Shanghai on Friday for a keynote speech by the prime minister.
But while trade dominated bilateral talks between Premier Li and Mr Abbott, there were some notable subjects left off the agenda.
It’s understood Mr Abbott did not raise human rights concerns with China, or North Korea’s recent provocative missile tests.
Mr Abbott branded North Korea an “outlaw state” during a symbolic visit to the demilitarised zone, but isn’t likely to raise the issue with China who is Pyongyang’s major ally and economic provider.