The Hon. Mark Vaile, MP
The Hon. Mark Vaile, MP

Media Release

Thursday, 4 September 2003 - MVT71/2003

Good Progress In First Year Of Closer Economic Partnership With ASEAN

Good progress had been made in the first year of Australia and New Zealand's Closer Economic Partnership with ASEAN, with $A38.1 billion in two-way trade among regional countries in 2002, Trade Minister Mark Vaile said today following the eighth ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (AFTA) and the Closer Economic Relationship (CER) ministerial meeting in Phnom Penh.

Mr Vaile said a progress report to ministers showed a new study on Non-Tariff Measures (NTM), due for completion later this year, would also contribute to improving the ease of doing business in the region.

"The NTM study will provide a practical framework for identifying and reducing impediments to trade between ASEAN and CER, thereby enhancing the free-flow of business activity in the region," Mr Vaile said.

Mr Vaile said ministers also reaffirmed their commitment to the World Trade Organisation Doha Development Agenda in the lead-up to next week's Cancun ministerial meeting and supported the overall goal of reinforcing the multilateral rules-based system for trade.

"Progressive trade liberalisation within the framework of the WTO system holds many concrete benefits for promoting growth and development and ministers agreed to work towards a meaningful outcome on key outstanding issues, notably the agriculture negotiations," Mr Vaile said.

Mr Vaile welcomed a new dialogue between Australia, New Zealand and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) on trade policy and economic issues, including the developing regional free trade agreement agenda.

"In outlining Australia's bilateral negotiations with Singapore, Thailand, Japan, China and the US, I reinforced our commitment to trade liberalisation and facilitation within the region," Mr Vaile said. "The dialogue with ASEAN will allow for productive exchanges on trade policy directions and economic issues of highest priority to business in Australia, New Zealand and ASEAN."

During the meeting, the AFTA CER Business Council (ACBC) advised ministers of priority areas for action including the mutual recognition of standards for fast moving consumer goods such as food and automotives, efficient customs processes, and a more transparent investment regime.

"The ACBC's input will advance the AFTA CER goal of doubling trade and investment by 2010," Mr Vaile said.

"The range of CEP activities is growing, including in the areas of customs cooperation, SMEs, trade policy training and research, and capacity-building. Australia has started work on a Sanitary and Phytosanitary Capacity-Building Program under the CEP which will build up regional quarantine expertise and capabilities, a key area of interest highlighted by ASEAN," Mr Vaile said.

Contact: Matthew Doman 02 6277 7420

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