China free trade deal passes Senate

The China-Australia Free Trade Agreement passed through the Senate on Monday, following 10 years of negotiations between the two countries.

AAP reports that the deal was passed with the support of Labor, following an extended stand-off caused by fears it could see Australian workers miss out on local jobs in favour of foreigners.

In the end, Labor and the Government came to an agreement under which all major projects must be subjected to local labour market testing, 457 visa holders must be paid at the relevant enterprise bargaining agreement rate, and 457 visa holders must obtain an occupational licence within 90 days.

However, both the Greens and Independent senator Jacqui Lambie opposed the agreement.

Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson called the deal “lopsided” and said its claimed benefits were based on faulty modelling.

The Government has admitted the free trade deals with Korea, Japan, and China will only lead to about 5,000 jobs by 2035, not 178,000, as it initially claimed.

As the SMH reports, according to Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade secretary Peter Varghese, the deal does stand to benefit Australia significantly, provided economic integration occurs quickly.

"If we are to take full advantage of the changes underway in china, we must do all we can now to further integrate our economies and foster growth in two-way trade and investment," he will tell the committee for economic development of Australia today, according to his speech notes.

"We should not forget that Australia is not the only country seeking to establish preferential economic arrangements with china.

"Competition in the Chinese market is intense – it has been for years and will only increase in the years ahead, even with slower growth in the Chinese economy."

Image: Jim Wilson/istockphot

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