World news – African Union – The mega free trade agreement is a lifeline for Australia-China relations


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Australian companies, universities and healthcare providers will be given access to 14 countries in the largest free trade deal ever signed, as federal the government is trying to turn the new trade bloc into a circuit breaker in its escalating trade dispute with China.

After eight years of highly secretive negotiations, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership will be signed Sunday after reaching cross-market agreements worth $ 30 trillion by Australia, China, Japan, Korea, New Zealand and 10 members of the South-East Asian Association, including: That’s Indonesia and Vietnam.

The Australian government will use the European Union-style trade bloc in the Indo-Pacific region to bring China back into multilateral negotiations and end trade disputes that have struck dozens of Australian industries and threaten $ 20 billion in exports..

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said: « The ball is largely in China’s court to come to the dialogue table. ».

The Australian government will use the trade agreement to meet with Chinese ministers once in-person meetings resume next year. The Chinese Communist Party has frozen contact with Australian ministers since the start of the coronavirus outbreak after multiple disputes over an independent investigation into the origin of the epidemic, Hong Kong and the South China Sea. .

Senator Birmingham said the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement was the largest free trade agreement in the world, accounting for 30 percent of global GDP and 30 percent of the world’s population. This is the first time that major trading partners China, South Korea, Japan and Australia have joined together in a single agreement, reducing reliance on a mixture of bilateral deals..

« It’s an agreement of great symbolic significance, coming at a time of uncertainty about global trade, » the Senator told The Sun-Herald and The Sunday Age.. . “He says in a really powerful and tangible way that our region, which has been the engine of global economic growth, remains committed to the principles of trade, openness and ambition..

Senator Birmingham called on China to respect the spirit of the new trade agreement. He said, « It is very important that partners like China, when entering into new agreements like this one, not only provide details of such agreements, but act according to its spirit. ». .

He said Australian companies in the services sector would benefit the most from the deal, which would recognize qualifications and licensing practices, while allowing them to work remotely and set up offices throughout the RCEP region..

The sector includes education, healthcare, accountants, and engineering and legal service providers. Four out of five Australians work while they account for up to 70 percent of Australia’s GDP..

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, fourth from left, with ASEAN leaders in November 2019. India’s last-minute decision not to join RCEP has not disrupted the process. Credit: AP

Senator Birmingham said: « It will make overseas trade much easier for a large part of the Australian economy. ». “With the emergence of middle-income groups in many RCEP countries, there is a growing demand for more of those safe, high-quality health and education services and other services that Australia is well positioned to provide..

The deal will also boost supply chains through common rules of origin and establish new rules for e-commerce across the region.

Years of bitter wrangling over RCEP over tariffs and market access. He has missed five deadlines since the discussions began in 2012.

Trade negotiators were frustrated by India’s reluctance to give away agricultural subsidies to farmers and manufacturers who enjoy a high degree of protection and political influence, and who fear the influx of Chinese products. As a result, tariff changes were largely excluded from the deal, leaving little benefit to Australian agricultural producers.

The 15 countries decided to sign the deal on Sunday without India, with a clause inserted instead that would allow them to join at a later time..

The Australian Council of Trade Unions raised concerns about the secrecy of the deal and warned that access to the foreign labor market could cost domestic jobs.

Trade expert Geoffrey Wilson of the USAsia Perth Center said that given the winds of global protectionism, including trade disputes between China and Australia, « the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement will be the most important regional trade agreement ever signed. ».

Australia’s relationship with China deteriorated this year after multiple trade strikes rocked seafood, timber, resources and agro-industries.. Senator Birmingham said the ongoing series of unrest is « extremely worrying ».

He said Australia will not « abandon its values » and called on China to take the first step to repair relations, after Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said last week that it was up to Australia to « confront the root » cause « of the conflict.

Wang said Canberra has silenced China by accusing Beijing of political infiltration, « blatant interference in its internal affairs » in Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Taiwan, and « placing excessive restrictions on normal cooperation. ».

The French and German governments called for the creation of a NATO-style security infrastructure in the Indian and Pacific Oceans to reduce the risk of war as tensions escalate across the region due to the growing hostility between China and the United States..

« I think these are times of tension between the two superpowers and the more we are able to use the current structures for dialogue on the economic or security level, the better, » he said.. .

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said Friday that the signing of the RCEP will send a « clear, strong and positive signal to promote regional integration and economic globalization. ».

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke with his regional counterparts at the ASEAN and Australia summit and unveiled a raft of multi-million dollar aid packages and initiatives.. They include a new office in Myanmar’s capital Naypyitaw, expansion of the defense network across all countries within ASEAN and $ 104 million to meet the region’s security needs, including military education..

Mr Morrison has pledged $ 21 million to help fund a new public health emergency center as part of Australia’s three-year commitment of $ 500 million to ensure coronavirus vaccines are available throughout the Pacific and Southeast Asia.

Another $ 24 million pledged to help fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, while $ 232 million has been announced to support development along the Mekong River..

Mr Morrison said: “Australia and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are partners in the challenges we face, as economic and health recovery in Southeast Asia is very important to us.”. .

Eric Bageshu is the China correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. Due to travel restrictions, he is currently residing in Canberra.

Association of Southeast Asian Nations, ASEAN Summit, China, East Asia Summit

World News – African Union – Mega Free Trade Agreement is the lifeblood of Australia-China relations


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