The China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA), which entered into force on 20 December, delivers China’s best-ever services commitments, including the provision of new or significantly improved market access not included in any of China’s previous FTAs (other than China’s agreements with Hong Kong and Macau). Importantly, through a Most-Favoured Nation (MFN) clause, Australia’s competitive position into the future will be protected if China extends any more beneficial treatment to other trade partners in the sectors of education, tourism and travel-related services, construction, engineering, securities, environmental services, services relating to forestry, computer and related services, and certain scientific and consulting services.
Legal services: ChAFTA guarantees market access for Australian law firms to establish commercial associations with Chinese law firms in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone (SFTZ). These commercial associations are able to offer Australian, Chinese and international legal services, without restrictions on where clients may be located.
Education services: Within one year of entry into force, China will list on a key Ministry of Education overseas study website 77 Australian private higher education institutions registered on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS). This gives Australian higher education providers an improved profile with prospective Chinese students and employers, enabling them greater access to China’s higher education market.
Telecommunications services: ChAFTA guarantees market access for Australian companies investing in specified value-added telecommunications services in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone (SFTZ), providing greater certainty for Australian telecommunications investments in the SFTZ. Under this commitment, wholly Australian-owned enterprises are allowed to supply domestic multi-party communication (DMPC) services, application store services, store and forward services, and call centre services.
Financial services: New commercial opportunities for Australian banks, insurers and securities firms. These include allowing Australian financial service providers to establish joint venture futures companies with up to 49 per cent Australian ownership, and Australian insurance providers more liberal access to China’s statutory third-party liability motor vehicle insurance market.
Tourism and travel-related services: ChAFTA guarantees that Australian services suppliers will be able to construct, renovate and operate wholly Australian-owned hotels and restaurants in China. Australian travel agencies/tour operators are also able to establish wholly Australian-owned subsidiaries in China, providing: travel and hotel accommodation for domestic and foreign travellers, tours within China for both domestic and foreign travellers, and travellers’ cheque cashing services.
Health and aged care services: China now permits Australian service suppliers to establish profit-making aged care institutions throughout China, and wholly Australian-owned hospitals in certain provinces. This will greatly expand the Australian private health sector’s offering of medical services through East Asia.
More detail on the services outcomes can be found in the detailed fact sheet on services and financial services, or in the full text of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement.