COMPETITION from state-owned enterprises (SOE) is a key stumbling block for two massive trade agreements which the federal government is trying to settle over the next few weeks.
The Australian Industry Group (AIG) has called on the government to ensure that manufacturers don't face unfair competition from state-owned enterprises as part of the free trade deal the government wants to announce in November.
And trade ministers from the 12 countries in the US-backed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) were negotiating on Sunday in Sydney over remaining issues, including state-owned rules.
In a break with the general business enthusiasm for a China deal, the AIG has released a survey urging the government to consider the full impact of any agreement on all of business. It finds 51.6 per cent of surveyed business feel they would be hurt by the removal of Chinese tariffs, while only 11 per cent say they will benefit from access to global supply chains.
While the study shows a trade deal had the potential to bring enormous benefits, AIG chief executive Innes Willox said: "Realising this potential will require skilful and determined negotiation and close attention to the diversity of the Australian economy."
The companies were concerned about loss of dumping protection, unfair competition from state-owned enterprises, intellectual property theft and erosion of local standards.Focused talks
Trade Minister Andrew Robb said on Sunday the TPP talks were more focused.
"There is a real sense that we are within reach of the finishing line. There is also a preparedness to make some of the difficult decisions."
A plenary session on Sunday was said to be focusing on solutions rather than sorting through claims.
Before the talks New Zealand Trade Minister Tim Groser said the key stumbling blocks were agricultural market access, intellectual property and disciplines on state-owned enterprises.
Officials are understood to have made significant progress on SOE competition issues in recent talks, although the TPP group doesn't include China.
The ministers have been discussing a leaders level meeting at one of he forthcoming regional summits although other observers are sceptical such a meeting will actually conclude the negotiations.