China won’t modify FTA, says Hockey

Treasurer Joe Hockey claims China is unwilling to renegotiate the free trade agreement with Australia in order to further protect Australian jobs.

AAP reports that Hockey said Chinese finance minister Lou Jiwei told him this at a meeting of G20 finance ministers meeting in Turkey on the weekend.

"It was made explicitly clear that the free trade agreement will not be renegotiated," Hockey told AAP on Sunday.

The Opposition claims that, while it supports that the free trade will be good for Australia, it wants its provisions to be thoroughly examined.

As the Guardian reports, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the deal needs to be modified to make sure that Australians get preference over Chinese nationals for Australian based jobs.

He added that the deal only needs “a couple of simple changes” and added – “This isn’t a deal killer. It doesn’t involve changing the treaty, but if the government say there’s no secret deal that has been done then I think they should come to the negotiating table. Labor believes in Australian jobs.”

However, according to Trade Minister Andrew Robb, it would not be easy to ensure all businesses first look for Australian workers because many workers on 457 visas are already exempt.

“Labor brought in all of these labour market testing arrangements,” Robb told the ABC’s Insiders program.

 “The problem with the legislation approach is that these 457s are very complicated. In fact, about 84% of all of the 457s coming in are excluded from market testing. Now, that was under Labor and we haven’t changed one iota of the rules and the legislation that was under Labor, and not one iota in terms of this free trade agreement.”