Former Minister for Trade
Australian Commonwealth Coat of Arms

4 May 2008

Trade Ministers Committed to Concluding ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement

The Trade Minister, Simon Crean, has welcomed the strong commitment expressed by ministers to conclude the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA) negotiations at their next meeting in August in Singapore.

The ASEAN Economic Ministers – Closer Economic Relations (AEM-CER) consultations were held in Bali, Indonesia, on 3 May.

At the meeting, ministers recognised the progress made in recent negotiating rounds with only a handful of issues now requiring resolution.

"Encouragingly, ministers did not identify any issue as being beyond resolution", Mr Crean said.

"It is important that negotiations deliver commercially meaningful improvements in market access for goods, services and investment."

"We are aiming for a high quality outcome that will also genuinely enhance our regional and multilateral trade and economic objectives."

Mr Crean said that it was clear that tough negotiations still lie ahead.

"The negotiations are challenging. We are dealing with a group of diverse countries ranging in different levels of development but importantly we all agree on the importance of successfully concluding the FTA negotiation in August."

"Considerable work remains. But ministers have given a clear signal to officials that the political will is there to try and achieve a substantial outcome this year."

The AEM-CER consultations involved ministers from the 10 ASEAN countries with the Trade Ministers from Australia and New Zealand (the parties to the CER Agreement).

In Bali, Mr Crean also discussed in detail with his ministerial colleagues, including US Trade Representative Susan Schwab and Indian Commerce Minister Kamal Nath, progress on the Doha Development Round.

"We are now in the final stages of the Doha negotiations. Challenges still remain. But the fact that countries are genuinely seeking to resolve these difficulties indicates their willingness to conclude the round this year," Mr Crean said.

Please see accompanying transcript.

Media Inquiries: Mr Crean's office 02 6277 7420 - Departmental Media Liaison 02 6261 1555