Former Minister for Trade
Australian Commonwealth Coat of Arms

25 February 2009

Visit to Thailand to sign new ASEAN Free Trade Agreement

The Minister for Trade, Simon Crean, will tomorrow leave for an official visit to Thailand from 26-28 February to sign the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA).

On 27 February in Hua Hin, he will join Trade Ministers from the 10 member countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations and his counterpart from New Zealand in signing the AANZFTA.

This agreement is a milestone in Australia’s economic engagement with our region.

AANZFTA is the first Free Trade Agreement Australia has signed since the onset of the global financial crisis. It demonstrates the Rudd Government’s commitment to supporting growth in Australia’s trade and investment with the region.

AANZFTA will cover an area with a combined population of 600 million and GDP in 2008 estimated at A$3.2 trillion. It will be the largest Free Trade Agreement that Australia has ever signed, the first multi-country FTA we have signed, and the most comprehensive FTA that ASEAN has ever concluded.

The agreement will help drive regional economic integration and sends a positive signal to the rest of the world of the region’s commitment to open trade flows in these difficult economic times.

In many cases, the agreement will lock-in low or zero tariff rates introducing a new safeguard against protectionism.

The agreement also sends an important practical signal to those nations supporting progress in the World Trade Organization Doha Round negotiations.

During his visit, Mr Crean will also meet senior ministers in the new Thai Government. He will register Australia’s desire to expand further its already close relationship with Thailand.

Mr Crean will be especially keen to promote Australia’s commercial interests with ASEAN’s second largest economy and Australia’s 8th largest trading partner, including in areas such as mining, education and energy.

In particular, he will be encouraging Thailand to agree to further negotiations on bilateral trade and investment liberalisation under the Thailand-Australia Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA).

He will also encourage closer cooperation with Thailand in responding to the global financial crisis and securing a successful outcome to the Doha Round.

As part of his attendance at the signing of AANZFTA, Mr Crean intends to take the opportunity to advance Australia’s bilateral trade interests with a number of his trade counterparts.

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