Asean, Australia, New Zealand seek trade deal by 2007
6 September 2004
JAKARTA, September 5. Southeast Asian nations, Australia and New Zealand hope to conclude a free trade agreement (FTA) by 2007 after beginning formal negotiations next year, government ministers said on Sunday.
Economic and trade ministers from Australia, New Zealand and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) agreed to negotiating principles for an FTA during a meeting in Jakarta over the weekend.
The ministers’ recommendation that negotiations begin in 2005 and be concluded within two years would go to heads of government for formal approval in Laos in November, a joint statement by the 12 nations said.
It said an Asean, Australia, New Zealand summit would take place during the 10th Asean leaders meeting in Vientiane. ‘‘It is incredibly important that we move to this much higher level of integration within our region,’’ Australian Trade Minister Mark Vaile said.
‘‘I don’t see any major obstacles at this stage. There will be issues obviously in the course of the negotiation that we need to address’’.
‘‘As well as tariff issues, there will be other things like quality issues,’’ said a senior Australian negotiator. ‘‘The areas where Australia has high protection are textiles, clothes and footwear and automotive. An area in many Southeast Asian countries that is subject to protection is agriculture, and that is of great interest to Australia and New Zealand,’’ he said. -(Reuters)