SYDNEY, Feb 23, 2010 - Australia will resume stalled free trade talks with its top trading partner China on Wednesday, officials said, ending a 14-month hiatus marked by a temporary plunge in relations.
Officials from both sides will meet for three days of talks in Canberra, re-starting a process which stumbled on technical issues in December 2008 before diplomatic ties were rocked by an Australian mining executive's arrest.
"It's the 14th round, and it's on this week between the 24th and the 26th in Canberra," a trade spokeswoman told AFP.
The easing of tariffs and Chinese concern about the impact of Australian imports on domestic prices were among sticking points when talks were last held in Beijing.
Two-way trade soared to 76 billion dollars (68 billion US) over the year to last June as rapidly industrialising China bought up Australian raw materials despite the global downturn.
"We see China as an opportunity, a huge opportunity too, in terms of its essential inter-relationship with our economy, its dependence on our resources and energy," Trade Minister Simon Crean told Indonesian television on Monday.
"The opportunity for investment flows between both countries. The deepening inter-dependency between us and China is one of real opportunity, not threat."
Australia quarrelled with China over the July arrest of Rio Tinto's Stern Hu, and a visit by exiled Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer, before vice premier Li Keqiang flagged new free-trade talks during a fence-mending visit in October.
Australia, buoyed by its strong recovery from the downturn, is also pushing for free-trade agreements with Japan and China and is studying a further deal with India.
The country relied heavily on Asia as it became the only advanced economy to avoid recession during the downturn, with Japan, China, South Korea and India its top four export markets.
"I mean you look at, you look at the stimulus packages of Korea, Japan, India, China, ASEAN as a whole ... this is huge demand for our resources," Crean said.
"And despite the fact that exports took a huge hit last year, in the global financial crisis, Australia is one of the very few countries to see growth in export volumes."
Australia's free-trade deal with the 10-nation ASEAN came into force last month, and it will start negotiating a trans-Pacific pact with the United States, New Zealand, Singapore, Chile, Brunei, Peru and Vietnam in March.