THE massive free trade agreement promised by Prime Minister Tony Abbott could be a certainty by year's end, after Chinese Premier Li Keqiang pledged to accelerate negotiations.
A deal, which could see billions of extra dollars in trade flow between Australia and its biggest trade partner, will be a key agenda item when Mr Abbott heads to China next month.
The biggest benefits of such a deal for Australia would likely be in exports of agricultural products, education, financial services and, possibly, resources.
While negotiations are ongoing, a deal could be struck before the trip, with Premier Li's comments a promising sign of China's renewed willingness to finalise the agreement.
Mr Abbott announced the trip this week, which will also include a massive delegation of up to 600 Australian business figures heading to the Asian giant.
While details are still to be worked out, the Chinese Premier told the National People's Congress in Beijing that a deal could soon be finalised.
China is also looking to finalise trade agreements with Korea and several Middle Eastern countries as it moves from industrial development towards a more service-oriented economy.
His comments lend significant weight to China's willingness to come to the negotiation table, after more than eight years of negotiations failed to reach a final deal.
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