Prime minister Tony Abbott has cast his visit to China as not just aimed at doing a deal but being a friend – while simultaneously stressing he is anxious to advance negotiations for the free trade agreement while in the country.
Addressing the Boao Forum today, Abbott, who is accompanied by a large and high-powered business delegation, asked what better way there could be to demonstrate Australia was “open for business” than visiting all three of its largest export partners on the one trip, culminating with the biggest one.
“And to conclude free trade negotiations with Japan; sign the free trade agreement with Korea; and perhaps most hopeful of all, accelerate free trade talks with China?”
Abbott said that “Team Australia is here in China to help build the Asian Century.
"China, after all, has taken to heart Deng Xiaoping’s advice that ‘to get rich is glorious.’ And China should be richer still, thanks to Premier Li’s reforms.
"To be rich is indeed glorious - but to be a true friend is sublime.
"Australia is not in China to do a deal, but to be a friend. We don’t just visit because we need to, but because we want to,” Abbott said.
Trade Minister Andrew Robb said he expected the FTA with China to be concluded by the end of the year. “We are at the advanced stage of this agreement,” he said.