CHINA AND AUSTRALIA SIGN FREE-TRADE DEAL

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — China and Australia have signed a preliminary deal after almost a decade of free-trade negotiations that will give Australia’s service industry unsurpassed access to the Chinese market and Australian agriculture advantages over competitors from the United States, Canada and the European Union.

Chinese President Xi Jinping witnessed the signing Monday by Australian and Chinese trade ministers of a declaration of intent which officially concluded negotiations that began in 2005.

Xi earlier told Australia’s Parliament that China was committed to peaceful development and resolution of territorial disputes.

Trade Minister Andrew Robb says the pact would be signed next year and take effect as early as March if it is endorsed by the Australian Parliament.

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