The Hon. Mark Vaile, MP
The Hon. Mark Vaile, MP
FORMER MINISTER FOR TRADE

Speech

14 July 2004

Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement - One Year On

Introduction

His Excellency George Yeo, Singapore Minister for Trade and Industry, excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentleman.

It is my great pleasure to address this business luncheon on the occasion of the first review of the Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement.

Without doubt SAFTA is already a success - facilitating trade and investment between our two countries.

Before discussing today's first review of SAFTA, I wished to initially remind everyone why we negotiated this agreement and what the agreement encompassed.

Australia and Singapore have had a long-standing, strong and constructive bilateral relationship which has covered the full spectrum of economic, political, defence, social and cultural endeavour.

Singapore is Australia's closest strategic and economic partner in our immediate region and importantly both countries have a shared belief that open trade will lead to greater economic prosperity.

Reflecting all of this, and our desire to strengthen even further our economic links with benefits to both countries, we negotiated an FTA - which entered into force on 28 July 2003.

SAFTA provides for improved conditions of access for Australian goods and services in a wide range of sectors, for example:

During the first twelve months of SAFTA, benefits from the agreement have already become evident:

SAFTA First Review

Under SAFTA, both countries agreed to review the implementation and outcomes of the agreement after 12 months, and then at two year intervals, to ensure the agreement's ongoing relevance for business.

Prior to this first review we have been encouraging feedback from business on the agreement

Minister Yeo and I agreed today to launch the first review of SAFTA. As part of this review process, we have agreed on the following which provide the potential for even greater benefits to our respective economies:

As we move forward we will continue to welcome the input of business to make this agreement even more beneficial for you.

SAFTA opportunities

The results produced by SAFTA over the past year have been impressive - but there is considerable potential to expand bilateral commercial links.

SAFTA also provides scope for commercial cooperation in third country markets in South-East Asia.

I encourage all of you to examine the opportunities presented by SAFTA - DFAT has produced a handy business guide "SAFTA - a business guide" to facilitate your making the most of the improved business prospects.

In passing I thought I would mention some of the pluses associated with the Singapore market - please step in George (Yeo) if there is anything I have left out. Singapore is:

Australia and Singapore are two economic partners with very sound economic fundamentals, prudent macroeconomic policy, and a commitment to economic openness

Australia's ambitious trade agenda

The SAFTA agreement is one part of the government's very ambitious trade agenda and its commitment to pursue every opportunity - be it at the multilateral, regional or the bilateral level - to expand access for Australian trade in global markets.

The WTO Doha round remains Australia's top trade priority - multilateral liberalisation offers the best chance for the largest gains for our exporters.

Despite the often heavy going, Australia continues to push the key players hard - recent developments have been more positive

In parallel, the Government is pursuing bilateral and regional trade agreements - we will pursue FTAs where these can deliver significant economic gains ahead of the timeframe possible in the WTO - as SAFTA does.

Major partners and markets in our Asia-Pacific region have been our focus - we have achieved some major successes which have provided real gains for Australian exporters.

You will be aware that the Thai-Australia Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) was signed by Prime Ministers Howard and Thaksin on 6 July.

This was a landmark deal for both countries - Australia's first FTA with a developing economy and Thailand's first with a developed economy.

And of course, the FTA we have concluded with the US is truly an historic agreement

In North Asia, last year the Government concluded Trade and Economic Frameworks with China and Japan - two of our major economic partners

In early July we had further great news for Australian business when ASEAN Foreign Ministers welcomed the proposal to launch FTA negotiations between ASEAN and Australia and New Zealand

Through our FTA negotiations, Australia's engagement with Asia has never been better.

Pursuing opportunities for business

FTAs such as SAFTA are a demonstration of the Government's commitment to negotiate trading arrangements that provide significant gains for Australian business

The Government will continue to pursue favourable bilateral trade agreements where it makes sense to do so.

And returning to SAFTA, I am confident that over time, and with input from business and regular reviews such as today, the SAFTA agreement will play a major role in enabling the bilateral commercial relationship to reach its full potential.

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