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Australia targets FTAs with top East Asia economies

JIJI

Australia wants to sign free trade agreements with Japan, China and South Korea during the first term of new Prime Minister Tony Abbott, trade minister Andrew Robb said in an interview with The Australian.

“I don’t want to set an absolute time on it but certainly (they will be signed), well before the end of our first ter — as soon as I can, to be honest,” he said in the interview published Thursday.

Robb said the coalition government led by Abbott’s Liberal Party, which was launched in September, is ready to be flexible on a key sticking point in FTA talks with the three Asian countries.

Australia will also do everything it can to help the United States meet its ambition of concluding the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations among 12 countries by the end of this year, Robb added.

Robb said he will visit South Korea, Japan and China after a two-day ministerial meeting from Friday of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Bali, Indonesia, to “do what I can to lock in a timetable” to conclude the FTA talks with the three countries.