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Govt pushing for Sydney as official trading hub for China's RMB -

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ELIZABETH JACKSON: The Federal Government is hoping to use an economic meeting to take more steps towards securing Sydney's status as an official trading hub for the Chinese currency.

The Treasurer, Joe Hockey, and the Trade Minister, Andrew Robb, will miss Parliament next week to take part in the Australia-China Strategic Economic Dialogue in Beijing.

They'll also try to further negotiations for a free trade deal.

Mr Robb spoke with our political reporter in Canberra James Glenday.

ANDREW ROBB: It's the inaugural Australia-China Strategic Economic Dialogue, so the Treasurer and myself looking at broad economic issues and also closer economic ties. It really is building in many ways the sort of trust that's important.

JAMES GLENDAY: How much progress do you hope to make on a free trade deal with China, and when do you want this deal finalised?

ANDREW ROBB: I had a series of negotiations just 10 days ago with my counterpart, Minister Gao. We did, I think, identify a framework, if you like, of issues that we still need to negotiate through, which I think we will. I'm still very positive that we can complete this deal this year.

JAMES GLENDAY: What are some of the main sticking points though?

ANDREW ROBB: For the Chinese, of course, they're particularly interested in investment issues, and some labour mobility associated with some of that, and for us it's access on agricultural and services. Services are going to be a very big component of our trade in future years, and China, I think, is a country that will benefit enormously from many of the services that we've got to offer.

JAMES GLENDAY: You've said previously the tight thresholds for investment in agriculture and agribusinesses that you agreed with the Nationals on will remain in place. How does China feel about that?

ANDREW ROBB: I don't want to speak for China. I haven't found any great resistance. I think there's an understanding in most countries in Asia of the particular sensitivity of agricultural land.

JAMES GLENDAY: On a different issue, is Sydney or Australia still in the running to be a major centre for offshore trading of the Chinese currency?

ANDREW ROBB: I think it is. That's a very important issue that Joe Hockey and myself will pursue during the course of this next week. I think it is very important for us to look for an RMB (renminbi) clearing and settling arrangement to be based in Sydney. It makes a lot of sense.

We've got a huge trade - we're the seventh-biggest trading partner for China.

JAMES GLENDAY: Do you think that you can do a deal on this trip?

ANDREW ROBB: I don't know about whether we'll finalise a deal, but we have made very strong representations, and Joe Hockey in particular, and we will continue that this week.

I do feel there's a great commonsense to Sydney, it is a significant financial centre. As well, we do have very major commercial contracts that are being settled on a daily basis almost in Australia.

JAMES GLENDAY: Should the Treasurer be travelling overseas in the final sitting week of this Senate, when so much of your Government's first budget is looking like it won't pass?

ANDREW ROBB: I think it's very important to have the Treasurer around the world as often as we can. It's very difficult because of the major domestic issues that a Treasurer has to deal with, but I think it's most appropriate for him to be in China this week. They are a very major player, and they're of an increasing importance from an investment point of view.

So to have the Treasurer in China this week makes absolute sense.

ELIZABETH JACKSON: That's the Trade Minister, Andrew Robb, speaking there to AM's James Glenday in Canberra.