The Hon. Mark Vaile, MP
The Hon. Mark Vaile, MP

Media release

Friday, 19 November 2004 - MVT92/2004

Vaile Welcomes APEC Best-Practice FTA Principles

Agreement by APEC ministers today on a set of best-practice principles for free trade agreements (pdf) was an important step forward for APEC economies, Trade Minister Mark Vaile said.

Speaking from the APEC Joint Ministerial Meeting in Santiago, Chile, Mr Vaile said free trade agreements had become major trade policy objectives for most APEC members.

"FTAs are recognized throughout APEC as providing valuable export opportunities for business, as well as improving our work towards a strong outcome for the Doha Round," Mr Vaile said.

"It is good to see the Australian Labor Party has now recognised this as well.

"As the spread of FTAs in the Asia-Pacific continues, we must ensure these agreements are fully consistent with World Trade Organisation rules and APEC principles so they can deliver enhanced benefits to FTA partners and to the trading community more widely.

"While the best-practice principles are non-binding, their strength lies in the moral force they have from the backing of economies accounting for 60 per cent of world trade."

Among the characteristics of the best-practice FTAs are comprehensiveness, going beyond WTO commitments, transparency, simple rules of origin and openness to accession by third parties.

"Australia will assist APEC members in a practical way to become familiar with the new principles," Mr Vaile said.

"In December we will host workshops for APEC government officials in Brunei and China. Participants have been invited from all APEC members".

To improve transparency, ministers also agreed on the need for information to be freely available to assist business in understanding the provisions of FTAs and to encourage the adoption of common approaches and best practice.

APEC is developing a website which will include details of all FTAs concluded so far by APEC member economies.

Contact: Matthew Doman (Ministerial) 02 6277 7420 - DFAT Media Liaison 02 6261 1555

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