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Unions alarmed by China - Australia trade agreement

Unions have expressed alarm at provisions of the China - Australia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) which was signed by the federal government on 17 June.

The Agreement gives Australian companies greater access to the Chinese market but it also allows more Chinese workers including tradespeople to work in Australia for up to four years on temporary skilled migration visas, either for local companies or for Chinese companies operating in Australia.

There appears to be no limit on the number of workers who could be imported this way by Australian companies and no “labour market testing” (i.e. demonstration of local skill shortages) required before they are engaged.

The Agreement also allows Chinese companies involved in infrastructure projects in Australia to bring in their own workers as long as the project is worth $150 million or more.  No labour market testing will be required here either. Telecommunications projects are among those singled out for these special privileges.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said that trade agreements should support local jobs and industry and all indications are that the deal with China does not.

“There should be strong rules around labour market testing and labour mobility clauses in the China free trade deal to ensure local jobs are protected,” she said.

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