On the heels of the G20 summit in Brisbane, Australia, a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) was announced between China and Australia. Negotiations for the FTA began in 2005 and the finalized agreement and its details were announced on November 17th, 2014.
In his piece for The Interpreter, Australian Professor Hugh White examines why Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott managed to nab the China FTA coup despite Mr. Abbott’s alignment with Japan and America to resist China’s regional ambitions. White explicitly questions why Chinese President Xi Jinping would be so “warm and generous” when Australia has demonstrated its deliberate opposition to Chinese ambitions, and postulates three possible explanations.
The first explanation is that to China, the economic and diplomatic value of the FTA with Australia outweighs the importance of differing views on regional political issues. White proposes that the Australian government is likely supportive of this view, noting that consensus in Canberra remains that Beijing will ultimately put the economy ahead of its other ambitions. A second proposed explanation is that China simply does not care about Australia’s views on strategic and political questions. White himself is most supportive of a third option as the most credible explanation – China does care about Australia’s views on its China’s regional political strategy, and wants to use this FTA to move Australia closer to China views through economic benefit. White argues that Mr. Xi is very serious about China’s regional strategic ambitions and has concluded that it would be best to turn Australia around “by offering an FTA and some reassuring words”. The author elaborates that he believes the FTA has gained ground in selling Australia on China’s vision of Asia, but that he does not believe this “new-found enthusiasm” will last.
The opinions expressed in the article summary above are the opinions of the author alone and not that of Global Summitry or its staff, editors and or advisers.
White, Hugh. “The China FTA and Australia’s place in the regional order” The Interpreter, 20 Nov. 2014. Web. 22 Nov. 2014.