The mining sector has welcomed a new free-trade agreement (FTA) signed with China yesterday; a deal that was 10 years in negotiations which will lift export tariffs and provide for the importation of Chinese labour.
The FTA eliminates all Chinese tariffs on Australian resources and energy products.
Coking coal tariffs in China will be lifted immediately, and thermal coal tariffs will be gone within two years.
With 14 agreements affecting various Australian export industries, the deal is one of the most significant China has ever signed with a developed country, federal trade minister Andrew Robb said.
The new FTA will also allow China to bring skilled labourers to work on major Australian projects.
Robb has insisted this is no different to current legislation.
“It means that if there are no Australian labourers available – and it won't be labourers, it will be skilled workers – for a particular project, they will be able to apply to get an investment facilitation agreement,” he said.
Labor opposition highlighted that the government has refused to release the full details of the FTA.
Senate opposition leader Penny Wong said the text of the agreement would not be released until after it has been signed next year.
NSW mining said the new agreement will help to underpin future investment in NSW and help to secure jobs.
China accounts for 22 per cent of NSW coal exports, up from 1.1 per cent in 2007-08.
The International Energy Agency estimated that global demand for electricity may double on 2009 levels by 2035, and NSW Mining said coal is forecast to meet than increase in the next five years, over and above oil or gas.
Talk radio shock jock and Liberal supporter Alan Jones criticised Prime Minister Tony Abbott for the deal on air yesterday, criticising the purchasing freedoms the new agreement will allow China in Australia.
“Can Tony Abbott go and buy a farm in China? No, the answer is no Prime Minister, the answer is no he can't, nor can he buy a coal mine, nor can he buy a steel mill.”
Jones said the new agreement would fail the “pub test” and affect the Liberal party at the next federal election.