Australian tourism body criticizes free trade agreement with China

by Ray Clancy on November 26, 2014

in Australia Travel

The new Free Trade Agreement between Australia and China is likely to do nothing to reduce the barriers to travel between the two countries, it is claimed.

The agreement has been hailed by Australian Immigration Minister as heralding a new era of increased trade and investment between the two countries and giving Chinese visitors more access to visas.

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The Tourism and Transport Forum says the new rules will not make things easier for Chinese travellers to Oz

But the Tourism and Transport Forum (TTF) said that although it is a ‘great’ breakthrough, it will not free up the movement of people between Australia and China.

‘The FTA frees up the movement of goods between Australia and China, but it does not free up the movement of people between the two countries,’ said TTF chief executive officer Margy Osmond.

‘Our visa regime for Chinese visitors remains stuck in a time warp while other countries forge ahead with reforms to make it easier for potential visitors,’ she added.

She pointed out that recently, the US and China announced a scheme granting visitors from each other’s countries 10-year visas.

‘Australia is being left behind and reform is needed to help restore Australia’s competitive position. Tourism generates $30 billion in annual export earnings, around 10% of total exports, but we are not fully realising the potential of growing and emerging markets in Asia, including China,’ she explained.

‘While the FTA will allow Australian companies to invest in China, it does nothing to remove the barriers for Chinese people who want to visit Australia. Other countries have rightly recognised the massive opportunity presented by China and are taking steps to capitalise on it by removing onerous visa conditions,’ she added.

A recent report produce by the TTF, Visitor Visa Reform: Reducing Barriers for Travel, shows that countries like the US, the UK and Canada have made it easier for independent travellers from China by introducing online applications and cutting processing times.

‘They also have similar procedures for visitors from other growth markets in Asia like India, Indonesia and Vietnam, countries that will fuel the next travel boom,’ said Osmond.

‘The tourism industry generates $100 billion in expenditure every year and directly employs more than 540,000 people, and visa reform would see that economic contribution become even bigger,’ she added.

Sounds like an even greater upheaval of visa reform may be in order.

 

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