Australian and New Zealand Ministers met in Canberra on 15 November 2012 for the annual Closer Economic Relations (CER) Ministerial Meeting. Australia's delegation was led by Minister for Trade and Competitiveness and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Asian Century Policy, the Hon Dr Craig Emerson MP. New Zealand's delegation was led by Minister of Trade and Minister for Climate Change Issues, Hon Tim Groser.
The importance of the economic relationship between Australia and New Zealand is reflected in trade and investment levels. Two-way trade between Australia and New Zealand was A$21.6 billion in 2011. The countries are close investment partners – Australia has A$74 billion invested in New Zealand and New Zealand has A$30 billion invested in Australia.
The strong economic links parallel increasing people-to-people contact. Annual visits in each direction exceed one million, and there are around half a million Australian residents who were born in New Zealand and around 65,000 Australians living in New Zealand.
Ministers reaffirmed both countries' commitment to free and open trade and to further trans Tasman economic integration, welcoming continued progress on the Single Economic Market Outcomes Framework agenda which was agreed by Prime Ministers in 2009. Given the uncertain global economic situation, they agreed on the importance of open flows of goods, services and capital and the need to strongly resist protectionism and to encourage further trade liberalisation and reform, including through the World Trade Organization (WTO), Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum and other international fora. Both countries remained strongly committed to eliminating tariffs and other barriers to global and regional trade and investment, including by pursuing new pathways in the WTO and in the negotiations for a Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). They reaffirmed their determination to work for an early conclusion of the TPP that is comprehensive and ambitious in all areas, eliminating tariffs and other barriers to trade and investment.
Ministers noted that Australia and New Zealand had a shared interest in maximising opportunities for businesses in Asia including under the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement. Where possible, the two countries will work together to make the most of opportunities presented by the Asian Century, to address common challenges for businesses operating in Asian markets, and to advance our joint interests in building partnerships with Asian countries including in third markets.
the completion of practical initiatives under the Single Economic Market Outcomes Framework, including the mutual recognition of both financial advisers and auditors, for profit entities that are publicly accountable needing to prepare only one set of financial statements, and cooperation in the areas of consumer law enforcement, trade measurement, product labelling and product safety bans and standards;
- ongoing work on mechanisms for consultation on domestic regulatory reforms with the intention of ensuring that governments take into account the broader trans-Tasman context when setting domestic policies;
- progress made toward establishing a joint scheme and agency to regulate therapeutic goods which would increase the public health benefits for consumers, reduce the regulatory burden for industry and enhance the reputation of New Zealand and Australian therapeutic products on the world market;
- the successful second ASEAN-CER Integration Partnership Forum held in Manila in May 2012, which addressed regional integration, services trade liberalisation and mutual recognition of registered occupations and preparations for a third Forum to take place in 2013;
- ongoing dialogue with countries in Latin America with a view to strengthening trade and economic relations, noting that Australia and New Zealand had been accepted as observers in the Pacific Alliance, involving Mexico, Chile, Colombia and Peru, and were involved in continuing discussions with the members of Mercosur;
- the positive progress in the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) Plus negotiations, including the increased engagement since March 2012, and the potential benefits to be gained from greater regional economic and trade integration;
- Australia's introduction of legislation to establish a trans-Tasman retirement savings portability scheme, complementing legislation already passed in New Zealand; and
- the decision to share the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope project between Australia and southern Africa, which provides an exciting and valuable opportunity for the region, building on the strong trans-Tasman collaborative effort over the past three years.
Ministers also discussed a range of initiatives in support of a seamless trans-Tasman business environment, including:
progress made in each country towards bringing into force the Protocol on Investment to the Australia-New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement;
- work on the joint market investigation on competitiveness of trans-Tasman mobile roaming rates;
- continued exploration of linking the Australian and New Zealand emission trading schemes in the context of wider efforts to develop a global carbon market;
- Australia's progress on its Illegal Logging Prohibition Bill, welcoming Australia's consultation with New Zealand industry and government on implementation;
- the commitment to streamlining travel between the two countries, including through expansion of smart border technology (such as Smartgate);
- the priority being given by Ministers with responsibility for food regulation to complete work on a joint food standard for nutrition, health and related claims under the bilateral Food Treaty;
- progress towards alignment of tobacco control measures including New Zealand's in- principle decision to introduce plain packaging for tobacco products, subject to public consultation; and
- continued cooperation in APEC to expand trade and strengthen regional economic integration in the Asia-Pacific region, including through regulatory cooperation, structural reform, services liberalisation and faster and less costly movement of goods, services and business people.
Ministers discussed the evolving role of CER Ministerial Meetings, noting the dynamic nature of the bilateral relationship meant that issues tend to be dealt with as they arose between responsible ministers or senior officials. Ministers agreed to continue to consider the evolution of the Meetings to ensure that they remain an efficient and effective way of maintaining oversight and governance of the economic relationship and ensuring momentum in the trans-Tasman economic integration and trade cooperation agenda.
With the 30th anniversary of the Australia-New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement approaching in 2013, Ministers drew attention to the major role that CER, and the Single Economic Market agenda, had played in promoting economic growth in both countries. Ministers looked forward to the finalisation of the report being prepared by the New Zealand and Australian Productivity Commissions which will put forward options to shape the next steps in trans-Tasman economic integration.
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