Prime Minister Tony Abbott hopes to spur free trade talks with China this week by assuring investors they’re welcome to do business in Australia.
Mr Abbott will depart for China on Wednesday, where he’s expected to address the Boao Forum in Hainan before taking his trade message to Shanghai and Beijing.
The prime minister formalised Australia’s free trade agreement with South Korea on Tuesday, a day after concluding long-running talks with Japan on a similar deal.
He’s hoping to carry that momentum into the final leg of his North Asia trip, and will challenge any perception that Australia can be a risky place to do business.
“What I’ll be wanting to reassure the Chinese government is that we are genuinely open for business,” he told reporters in Seoul on Tuesday.
Under the FTAs signed with Korea and Japan, investors had to accept that any proposed farm buyouts over $15 million would be automatically scrutinised.
China reportedly doesn’t like this clause, but Mr Abbott said many significant Chinese bids had been approved by the federal government.
He ambitiously promised at the election to secure free trade deals with the economic powerhouses of North Asia – Japan, South Korea and China – within a year.
With Japan and Korea out of the way, trade negotiators could now redouble their efforts on China.
But the prime minister said he wanted a good deal with China and wouldn’t be drawn on when he expected talks to wrap up.
“Two out of three of these deals within seven months is pretty good progress,” he said.
“We will do a deal with China if and when it is clearly in both our countries best interests to do so.”
Mr Abbott will wrap up his visit to Seoul with a state dinner hosted by President Park Geun-hye.
The two leaders agreed in bilateral talks on Tuesday to deepen defence ties, and could consider developing links between Australian and Korean military technology companies.
North Korea, not surprisingly, was discussed at depth. Mr Abbott said Pyongyang was a threat to regional security and should be treated as a “rogue and outlaw state”.
At the dinner, Mr Abbott will unveil a photo of President Park as a young girl with her father, a former Korean leader, and her mother planting a tree at Canberra’s Korean embassy on her first overseas holiday.
The image is a moving tribute to her family legacy and the bilateral relationship, as both of President Park’s parents were separately assassinated in political attacks.