From The Associated Press, via Forbes.com:
China and Australia on Monday agreed to start talks on a free trade pact. Chinese Commerce Minister Bo Xilai and Alan Thomas, Australia’s ambassador to China, signed a memorandum of understanding that opens the way for a formal free trade agreement between the two countries. No other details were released
Few countries have granted China market economy status because of international concerns there was still too much Chinese government interference in business. The European Union last year refused to recognize it as a free trader.
Ma Xiuhong, a Chinese vice minister of commerce, reportedly said last month that Beijing wanted a trade deal with Australia to prevent sharp increases in iron ore and energy prices, and to lock out future competitors for Australian resources.