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China, Aust sign free trade agreement


China has described its new free trade deal with Australia as the most liberal negotiated with any country.

Trade Minister Andrew Robb and Chinese commerce minister Gao Hucheng signed the agreement between the two countries on Wednesday in Canberra.

Negotiations for the deal began in April 2005 and Prime Minister Tony Abbott said it was a momentous day to have it finally sealed.

"I trust that today our Chinese friends will enjoy the fine beef and the good wine that will soon be more readily enjoyed by their countrymen," he said after the agreement was signed.

Mr Abbott described both China's president Xi Jinping and Dr Gao as shrewd and perceptive politicians.

"I was indeed truly delighted to today receive a letter from President Xi conveying his personal congratulations on the signing of the agreement.

The president will shortly receive a letter from Mr Abbott conveying great pleasure at "what is the beginning of the next chapter in the relationship between our two countries".