‘We wanted to change China with FTA’: former ambassador

EXCLUSIVE: The China FTA only achieved lift-off under the Abbott government’s more “defensive” approach in talks, a former Chinese ambassador reveals to The Mandarin.

Geoff Raby

Geoff Raby

Official negotiations on the China-Australia free trade agreement, widely reported to be near completion, have stretched out for nearly a decade now. But little progress was made until the Abbott government took up the reins, according to a former ambassador to China.

Geoff Raby, an economist and career diplomat, was Australia’s representative in the lucrative Middle Kingdom between 2007 and 2011. While talks with China started officially in 2005 under the Howard government, pre-negotiation negotiations began two years before that. Indeed, he told The Mandarin the whole thing was his idea.

“I actually started the negotiations back in 2003,” he said. “It was my idea that I put to the government of the time. [Foreign minister Alexander] Downer and [prime minister John] Howard eventually took it up and went with it. So I was heavily involved in getting the whole thing started from scratch.”

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  • James

    I stopped reading as soon as Rabi says “we’d just done a very good bilateral free trade agreement with the United States”… that BTA was a shocker

    • Cardinal fang