New trade minister to push for free trade with Asia

Newly appointed trade minister Richard Marles will prioritise the pursuit of free trade agreements with China, South Korea and Japan.

Marles told Australia Network's Newsline that the emergence of the Asian middle class “is the most significant social phenomenon that we will see in the world over the coming decade."

As such, he said that it is essential that Australia prioritises free trade agreements with China, Korea and Japan.

Talks between China and Australia began back in 2005, however they recently stalled. Former trade minister, Craig Emerson said in April the government was not prepared to accept China’s demand that Australia lift its threshold on reviewing the purchase of assets by foreign states from zero to Aus$1 billion.

But, according to Marles, it is essential that free trade efforts are continued.

"Providing goods and services to that enormous population represents a huge opportunity to diversify the Australian economy," he said.

Marles added that he believed economic links between the nations, as well as “people to people’ contacts between students and so forth mean that Asia and Australia are now closer than ever.

However, the results from a 2012 Lowy Institute poll suggest there is still a way to go. According to the poll, 56 per cent of Australians thought too much Chinese investment was allowed.

This is despite the fact that just 1 per cent of Australia's inbound investment is from China. In comparison, the US accounts for 29 per cent of investment and the UK accounts for 23 per cent.

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