Former Minister for Trade
Australian Commonwealth Coat of Arms

Media Release

16 August, 2009

Regional Trade Ministers strengthen trade and economic links

Minister for Trade Simon Crean met with ministers from the ten ASEAN countries and New Zealand in Bangkok, Thailand, over the weekend to work towards entry into force of the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA) on 1 January 2010.

AANZFTA will deliver, over time, tariff elimination on between 90 and 100 per cent of tariff lines from the more developed ASEAN member countries.  This covers some 96 per cent of current Australian exports to the region.

“Australian exporters want this FTA to come into force as soon as possible, so they can access the significant tariff reductions and other commitments it contains," Mr Crean said.

“I was greatly encouraged by the discussion and the strong political commitment shown by all Ministers for the Agreement to come into force on 1 January 2010.  We have agreed to redouble our efforts to realise this.  This is excellent news for Australian business."

At the meeting of economic ministers from all EAS countries (consisting of all ten ASEAN countries plus China, India, Korea, Australia, Japan and New Zealand), ministers agreed to recommend to the EAS leaders a series of practical steps to deepen and strengthen East Asian economic integration.

“Decisions taken by EAS economic ministers build on AANZFTA and the study of a Comprehensive Economic Partnership in East Asia (CEPEA) by laying the groundwork for a more integrated regional economic architecture, covering the fastest growing region of the world," Mr Crean said.

EAS Ministers agreed that officials take forward together CEPEA (EAS) and the East Asia FTA (ASEAN plus China, Japan and Korea) recommendations for future regional economic integration.  This means these processes are beginning to converge and Australia is well-positioned to contribute to,
and benefit from, this important process. This includes consideration of the CEPEA study by senior officials.

“I was impressed with the vision shown by other Ministers in how they approached our discussions on the evolving regional economic architecture.  There was a good appreciation of the role of trade and investment in responding to the recent global economic crisis, including developments with regional supply chains.

“This week’s signing of the ASEAN-India Free Trade Agreement means ASEAN has now concluded goods FTAs with all other EAS countries.  This provides a strong basis for developing a future free trade area spanning China, India, Japan, South-East Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Though some way off, such a development is an exciting prospect for Australia and the entire region” Mr Crean said.

Mr Crean also used the opportunity to progress the WTO Doha negotiations with a number of other Ministers including Indian Minister for Commerce, Anand Sharma, and Indonesian Trade Minister, Mari Pangestu.

India will be convening an important meeting of trade ministers in New Delhi in early September to provide specific guidance to officials on how to move the Doha negotiations forward.

“The Indian meeting provides another important opportunity, building on our collective efforts in Bali, Paris and the Singapore APEC meeting last month, to progress the Doha Round with outcomes to be reported to G20 Leaders in Pittsburgh in September.”

“Efforts to conclude Doha as quickly as possible continue given its importance to the global economic recovery and as a counter to trade protectionism,” Mr Crean said.



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