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Asean-Australia-NZ FTA may be concluded in 2007

Bernama, Malaysia

Asean-Australia-NZ FTA May Be Concluded In 2007

By M. Saraswathi and Umi Hani Sharani

25 August 2006

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 25 (Bernama) — The Asean-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (FTA) talks could be concluded in 2007, despite some wrangling over issues like government procurements and environment.

New Zealand’s Trade Minister Phil Goff and Australia’s Trade Minister Mark Vaile were confident that this could be achieved based on the significant progress to date.

Goff said that negotiations could be concluded next year "if there is a will to do so" and Ville stressed that it was "our responsibility to try and achieve that (the deadline)".

Australia is keen on the issue of government procurements while New Zealand wants environment and labour to be included in the trade pact with the region. However, Asean thinks otherwise.

Asked whether New Zealand would withdraw from the trade pact if their issues were not included, Goff said he did not think any party would "lock" itself in a position of whether to sign or not just because a certain issue was not included.

"It is about being flexible, about what might emerge in such endeavour," he told Bernama.

"It is also about various parties discussing and sorting out their differences as well as trying to find a common ground," he added.

New Zealand has FTAs with Thailand, Brunei and Singapore.

Vaile, meanwhile, said that there had been good progress made in negotiations on goods.

"We have had frank discussions on what should be done in investment and services," said Vaile, who is also Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister.

He said the FTA would see more significant investments from Australia-New Zealand into the grouping comprising Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam.