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Aust to sign Asean FTA

The Nation | December 16, 2008

Aust to sign Asean FTA

By Petchanet Pratruangkrai

Australia will today sign a free-trade agreement with Asean to stimulate trade, services and investment growth.

The trade pact - with Australia and New Zealand on one side, and Asean on the other - was originally set for signing this month during the Asean Summit in Thailand, but the summit has been postponed to the third week of February.

The FTA will be on today’s agenda at the Asean Foreign Ministers meeting at the Asean Secretariat in Jakarta to celebrate the entry into force of the Asean Charter.

"The pact is due to be inked by member states on December 16. However, some countries - New Zealand, Vietnam and Thailand - will not yet sign the agreement. Thailand is still waiting for parliamentary approval under the Constitution," said Winichai Chaemchaeng, adviser to the Commerce Ministry.

New Zealand and Vietnam are still deliberating some tariff-reduction issues before they too are prepared to ink the document.

Although the delayed full signing of the agreement may create losses for the country, Winichai said Thailand should be ready to sign during the Asean Summit in Bangkok in February.

The accord’s implementation should take about a few months after the signing. Therefore, Thailand will not lose out to other Asean countries in terms of reaping the benefits of the FTA, he added.

Under the pact, Thailand would enjoy benefits in automobiles and auto parts, garments and agricultural trading, as it would be able to export products that originated from other Asean countries to Australia and New Zealand.

 source: Nation