Australia hopes for conclusion of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) talks with China by the end of this year, said Chinese Deputy Minister of Commerce Chen Jian here on Wednesday.

Chen, who followed Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping's visit to Australia, made the remarks in an interview with the Chinese media.

"As far as I know, the Australian side hopes that both sides could conclude the talks by the end of this year," Chen said when answering a question from Xinhua.

China and Australia are scheduled to hold the 15th round of FTA talks on June 28 in Beijing.

"The Chinese government and the Australian government are positive on the talks, there is no change. We hope the bilateral trade and investment could realize remarkable progress through the institutional arrangement like the FTA," he said.

Chen said China hopes for concluding a fair and balanced pact in the mutual benefit with the Australian side, urging both sides to "demonstrate flexibility" in the talks.

Chen revealed that both sides are expected to discuss some "technical questions", but he believed the prospect for the talks would be "promising".

In recent years, the trade and investment between China and Australia rose rapidly. The trade volume has rose from merely $2 billion when the two set up diplomatic relations to current over $60 billion.

Currently, Australia is the biggest exporter of iron ore, alumina, coal and liquefied natural gas to China, and it is also the biggest supplier of wheat, sheep hair and live cow for China.

China is Australia's biggest trading partner and biggest exporting market as well as biggest importer. Despite of global financial crisis, Australia's export to China still rose by 31 percent in 2009.

In October 2008, China signed an FTA with Australia's neighbor New Zealand, the first of its kind China has ever concluded with a developed country. The pact has helped boost trade and investment between China and New Zealand and brought substantial benefits to enterprises from both sides.


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