Australian Prime Minister John Howard says there is a good chance his country and China will begin negotiations on a free trade agreement.

Mr. Howard told Australian television that for negotiations to begin, Australia would have to concede market economy status to China, and in return, Beijing would have to include all industries in the free trade pact.

The prime minister is expected to formally launch the talks when he visits China next month.

China is Australia's third-largest trading partner. Trade between the two countries hit $23 billion last year.

Some information provided by AP and AFP.