By Boyd Champness

CHINA and Australia have formally signed an agreement that will free up access for Australian products and businesses to the Chinese market.

The deal, signed in Beijing by Trade Minister Mark Vaile and his Chinese counterpart, Shi Guangsheng, will open up quota levels and reduce tariffs on products when China finally joins the World Trade Organisation.

According to a report in The Age newspaper, the agreement covers some 1400 categories of products in key sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing, plus services including finance and insurance.

Tariffs for Australian wine producers will fall quite dramatically, from 65% to 14%.

Tariffs on dairy products, such as milk powder, butter and cheese will drop from as high as 50% to 12%.

There have also been substantial gains in tariff-rate quotas for grain, wool and sugar exports to China.

The Age report says the signing ceremony concludes an agreement in principal struck between the two countries a year ago, and will further bolster Chinas bid for WTO entry.

Mr Vaile told the newspaper that the deal would “guarantee secure trading conditions for billions of dollars of Australian exports”.

“It will undoubtedly see the level of business done between our two countries increase significantly,” he said.

“As far as Australian exporters are concerned, they are well-equipped and well-versed in doing business in this part of the world.”

While Australia welcomes the deal it is under no illusions that its an exclusive offer.

The European Union signed a similar deal two days before Australia.