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Asean eyes completion of FTA talks with Australia, New Zealand in ’08

Dow Jones Newswires | 26 August 2007

Asean Eyes Completion Of FTA Talks With Australia, New Zealand In ’08

Cris Larano

MANILA (Dow Jones) — Economic ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations expect to complete negotiations with Australia and New Zealand for a free-trade deal by next year.

Australia’s Trade Minister Warren Truss and New Zeland’s Trade Minister Phil Goff met Sunday with Asean economic ministers, who gathered in Manila at the weekend to discuss regional economic integration and advance free-trade talks with other countries.

In a communique, Asean economic ministers said while "considerable progress" has been made on the proposed comprehensive FTA with Australia-New Zealand, concluding talks this year is unlikely because the next phase of the negotiations "would be critical and intense."

A key area of the next round of negotiations would be market access, especially for agricultural products.

Asean Secretary General Ong Keng Yong said a conclusion of an FTA with Australia-New Zealand is possible as early as 2009. The statement said the goal is to conclude substantive negotiations by May next year and have an agreement signed by August 2008.

Two-way trade between Asean and Australia-New Zealand totaled $46 billion last year, a 21% increase from 2005.