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China, Australia Sign Landmark Free Trade Agreement

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, back center, watches as China's Minister of Commerce Gao Hucheng, second left, and Australian Minister for Trade Andrew Robb, second right, sign a free trade agreement between the two countries in Canberra, Australia

China and Australia have signed a landmark free trade agreement that follows about a decade of negotiations.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Chinese Trade Minister Gao Hucheng attended the signing ceremony Wednesday in Canberra.

"It will change our countries for the better , it will change our region for the better, it will change our world for the better," said Abbott.

Trade Minister Gao praised the free trade deal, which was struck late last year, as "comprehensive, high-quality and balanced."

"It has the highest degree of liberalization amongst all the FTA's China has so far signed with another economy," he said.

Under the pact, tariffs eventually will be lifted on 95 percent of Australian exports, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

The wide-ranging agreement will also lower restrictions on Chinese investment in Australia and make it easier for Australian banks, insurance companies and universities to do business in China.

China is Australia's biggest trading partner. Two-way trade between the two nations amounts to over $123 billion annually.