Australia, China resume talks

Australia and China resumed free trade talks yesterday, after a delay of more than a year, in a move Australia said proved their trading relationship had not been hurt by the arrest of Rio Tinto mining executive Stern Hu.

Relations between Australia and China plummeted in June 2009 over a failed bid by China's state-owned Chinalco to buy a $19.5 billion (Dh71.6bn) stake in mining giant Rio Tinto, and were further strained by the arrest of Australian citizen Hu.

Australian Trade Minister Simon Crean said Australia had not yet been informed about a trial date for Hu, who has been indicted on charges of bribery and stealing commercial secrets.

"We haven't got specifics on the date. We continue to urge expedition and transparency in his case," Crean told reporters. "So far as the trading relationship is concerned, both countries understand the interdependence of each country on the other. There is a genuine desire to deepen and diversify that interdependency. That's why the talks are back on track," he said.

Australia and China began talks on a free trade deal in April 2005, but the talks stalled after the 13th round of negotiations in Beijing in December 2008. More than 30 Chinese officials were attending the two days of talks in Canberra. The two countries are aiming to reach a deal, which could inject up to $124bn extra into Australia's economy.

 

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