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China and Australia set to strengthen agriculture links.

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DAFF04/89WT - 8 April 2004

China and Australia set to strengthen agriculture links

The Australian and Chinese agriculture sectors look set for closer ties with several high-level meetings taking place later this month, Agriculture Minister Warren Truss said today.

Mr Truss said the Joint Working Group on Wool, which is meeting in Beijing on 23 April, provides an opportunity for government and industry representatives from both countries to discuss a range of key issues.

"China is a major buyer of Australian wool, taking around 40 per cent of our wool clip," he said. "In dollar terms, exports to Chinese woollen mills in 2003 earned Australian growers around $1 billion.

"The Beijing meeting will allow Australia to press for reduced import duties and taxes on greasy wool and wool top, and a change to the mandatory re-testing of our wool."

Better access to the Chinese market for Australian horticulture products will be the focus of meetings in Guangzhou from 26-29 April.

"The Government is pushing hard for formal access arrangements for Australian citrus and mangoes," Mr Truss said. "Table grapes, cherries, stone fruit and lychees are also on the list of products we are looking to sell to China. A breakthrough in these areas will significantly benefit our producers and exporters."

Mr Truss said there would also be high-level discussions on animal and plant health in Beijing on 29-30 April as part of a MoU on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Cooperation he signed last October with China's Quarantine Minister, Li Changjiang.

"The talks will help encourage greater cooperation between Australia and China on a range of animal and plant health matters, something that would directly benefit our exporters," he said. "China, which has only been a member of the World Trade Organisation since 2001, is also looking to benefit from Australia's experience in the quarantine area."

Mr Truss also welcomed the visit to China from 21-27 April by Trade Minister Mark Vaile.

"Mr Vaile's visit, which will include leading Australia's delegation to the Joint Ministerial Economic Commission meeting in Beijing on 27 April, reflects the importance of our relationship with China," he said.

"China is a major player in world trade, and the Australian Government is making every effort to ensure our agricultural producers can benefit from its growing domestic market.

"I also urge Australian producers, and their industry representatives, to take advantage of the opportunity to contribute to the Joint Study into a possible free trade agreement with China."

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's China FTA Study Taskforce has invited public submissions and comment on issues relevant to the Joint Study. The deadline for receiving submissions is Friday 18 June 2004.

Further media inquiries:

Minister Truss' office: Tim Langmead - 02 6277 7520 or 0418 221 433