Australian federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott on Thursday urged Australian government to step up free-trade talks with Japan, because it looks easier when compared to China.
Australia started free-trade talks with Japan in 2007, two years after the start of discussions with China, and Abbott said Australia should strongly prosecute free trade deals with Japan.
"I am all in favor of freer trade with Japan ... and with China, provided it is in Australia's national interest," he told reporters in Melbourne on Thursday.
"I just make the obvious point that it is probably going to be easier to conclude a free-trade agreement with a fellow market economy."
However, federal Trade Minister Craig Emerson said Abbott's position appeared to contradict that of his deputy leader Julie Bishop, who this week urged the government to conclude its talks with China to support Australian exporters.
Dr Emerson will have a telephone conversation on Thursday with his Chinese counterpart Chen Deming, and Emerson said he would assure Chen that Australia remained committed to the trade negotiations with China.