logo logo

Canberra pins hope on Asean FTA

Business Mirror | Thursday, 22 January 2009

Canberra pins hope on Asean FTA

Written by Estrella Torres / Reporter

CANBERRA has expressed hopes that member-countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) will sign a comprehensive free-trade agreement (FTA) with Australia-New Zealand-already completed-that seeks to loosen restrictions on trade and improve investments.

Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Rod Smith said the agreement was concluded in September last year and awaits the signing by the Asean members.

He also hopes that through the free-trade treaty, the trade between the Philippines and Australia will have a dramatic increase. Smith said the two-way trade volume between Manila and Canberra is now at A$2.7 billion during 2007-08.

“The amount is not as substantial, since the whole trade volume between Australia and Asean is A$70 billion. The Philippines’ share of trade is much lower than it should be and we’re working on that area,” said Smith in his speech at the annual Journalists Reunion hosted by the Australian Embassy held late Wednesday in Makati City.

He said the Australian areas of interests are minerals, oil and gas, well as providing higher education and skills training to Filipinos.

Smith said they expect Asean members to sign the FTA when the regional bloc holds its summit in Thailand from February 27 to March 1.

But the trade agreement will not relax Canberra’s strict rules on sanitary and phytosanitary measures (SPS) that have caused huge losses for many Philippine exporters of tropical fruits whose products were barred from entry. “Australia’s SPS rules are based on the provisions of the World Trade Organization and these will continue to apply.”

A statement from the Australian Embassy said Biosecurity Australia has released its final import risk analysis (IRA) for bananas in November last year, and the commercial shipments of Philippine pineapples to Australia have started following completion of an IRA for Philippine pineapples.

Australia has also resumed import action of Philippine mangoes, but only those coming from the island of Guimaras.

Smith said the FTA will provide significant easing in most sectors of goods as he expressed hopes the private sector in the Philippines and other Asean members will take advantage of opportunities opened.

 source: Business Mirror