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Wednesday, June 17, 2015, 12:46

Australia, China sign landmark free trade pact

By Xinhua

Australia, China sign landmark free trade pact
Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott (top center) looks on as Chinese Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng (2nd left) and Australia's Trade Minister Andrew Robb (2nd right) sign a free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries in Canberra on June 17, 2015. (AFP PHOTO / POOL / Lukas Coch)

CANBERRA - The Australian and Chinese governments signed a long-awaited, "monumental" free trade agreement in a ceremony in Canberra on Wednesday, lifting most import tariffs in the two countries.

The landmark signing by Australia's Trade Minister Andrew Robb and China's Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng finalized negotiations that began ten years ago and followed the Declaration of Intent signed in November by the two countries' leaders, Tony Abbott and Xi Jinping.

At the ceremony Prime Minister Abbott said the "unprecedented" and "monumental" pact was the "next chapter" in strong relations between the two countries.

"This deal today is history-making for both our countries," he said. "It will change our countries for the better. It will change our region for the better. It will change our world for the better.

He said the "extraordinary" agreement had opened the vast Chinese market to further Australian investment, primary products and services, while facilitating further Chinese investment in Australia.

Upon full implementation of the wide-ranging agreement, tariffs will be lifted on 95 percent of Australian exports, hurdles for Chinese businesses to invest in Australia will be lowered and more visas for Chinese holidaymakers will be granted.

China is Australia's largest trading partner, with the trade of goods and services last year exceeding US$135 billion - almost a quarter of Australia's total international trade.

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