Architecture and urban design firms are among a number of service based sectors who will have greater access to the massive Chinese market following the conclusion of the free trade agreement during Chinese President Xi Jing Ping’s visit to Australia this week, media reports say.

Though details remain sketchy, a fact sheet published by the Department of Foreign Affairs indicates that China will now ‘take into account Australian experience in assessing applications for higher-level qualifications, allowing Australian architectural and urban planning firms established in China to obtain more expansive business licences to undertake higher-value projects in China’.

According to media reports, this means Australian architecture firms – like their counterparts in construction and real-estate – will not have to partner with local Chinese firms but instead will have their qualifications recognised and be able to offer full design services in China.

“You can undertake independently architectural functions from schematics all the way to design execution; it’s the whole spectrum,” PTW Architects corporate general manager Steve Hu is quoted as saying in the Australian Financial Review.

“By having this intensified competition, I think the service levels [in China] will be greatly promoted.”

With more than 400 million people thought to be living in substandard housing and the overall construction market expected to grow by an annual average of 8.5 percent per annum (Freedonia forecasts), the Chinese market is considered to offer enormous opportunities for firms involved with architecture and other parts of the built asset sector

Already, a number of firms are making headway: Melbourne based CK DesignWorks, for example, is developing a master plan for the development of the World Heritage Area of Nanjing which will cater for up to 15 million local tourists each year; PTW, meanwhile, boasts at least ten major projects in the country, including the luxury Octopus Hotel on Hai Nan Island in the south which is shaped like an Octopus and features an underwater restaurant and a marine pier at the lobby.

Still, some commentators believe excitement about the deal should be tempered with caution.

Australian Institute of Architects Immediate Past President Paul Berkemeier is quoted in the AFR as saying the opening the market would not necessarily bring immediate change but would most directly benefit practices with an existing presence in the market.