China free-trade agreement could hurt Australian manufacturers, survey show


A recent survey conducted by the Australian Industry Group (AIG) showed that the majority of Australian manufacturers are not confident that the tariff cuts on Chinese imports under a free-trade agreement (FTA) would help their business.

China free-trade agreement
Image Credit: China Economic Review

According to the article on Bloomberg BusinessWeek, AIG’s CEO Innes Willox said in a statement that just over half of the 160 surveyed manufacturing businesses replied that it would “negatively affect their business”, whereas about a fifth of the respondents were uncertain whether the impact would be positive or negative.

“The Australian-China FTA could, if delivered well, enable local manufacturers to source competitively priced inputs and find more opportunities in global supply chains, yet only 11.2% of manufacturing respondents in the survey expect their business to benefit,” Willox said.

AIG’s survey, which is part of a submission to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, points out several measures to address manufacturers’ concerns, including: addressing restrictions on Australian investment in China and non-tariff barriers and domestic preferences there; maintaining Australia’s rights on anti-dumping; incorporating effective safeguards around intellectual property infringements; and conformity with Australian safety and quality standards.

China and Australia have been locked in negotiations to reach the FTA for almost 10 years and are now hoping the deal would materialise before President Xi Jinping flies to Australia for the G20 summit in Brisbane and then visits Canberra to address the Parliament.

It would mark the third major FTA agreement for Australia since the beginning of 2014, having already sealed free-trade deals with Japan and South Korea earlier this year.