The Mandarin - 15 September 2022
FTA negotiations top priority for Ayers in Cambodia
By Melissa Coade
Australia’s assistant minister for trade Tim Ayres will attend the 45th meeting for ASEAN economic ministers, hosted in Cambodia’s tourist mecca of Siem Reap, this week.
One of the senator’s main missions will be to progress a trade and investment relationship with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members.
“I look forward to working with my counterparts to accelerate negotiations to upgrade the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand FTA (AANZFTA), which is the central pillar of Australia’s trade and investment relationship with ASEAN nations,” Ayres said in a statement.
The free trade agreement Ayres referred to first came into force in 2010 and offers extensive tariff reduction and greater certainty for services suppliers and investors for members. The AANZFTA was updated in 2015 and recommendations made in 2018 following a general review are yet to be adopted.
This will be the first time economic ministers from Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam have met since entering into a new comprehensive strategic partnership with Australia.
The senator said Australia was committed to working with ASEAN partners and the broader Indo-Pacific region to deliver “real substance” through regional trade agreements, and the comprehensive strategic partnership.
“ASEAN as a bloc is Australia’s second-largest two-way trading partner,” Ayres said.
“As our countries and communities recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, I will use the East Asia Summit Economic Ministers’ Meeting to emphasise Australia’s support for an open, inclusive and resilient region,” he added.
Ayers will also use his trip to attend the first Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP) ministers’ meeting. That group will discuss issues focused on economic cooperation, opportunities for regional support for trade liberalisation and the rules-based order.
“We welcome passage of legislation recently in Indonesia as an important step towards ratification,” he said.
While in Cambodia Ayres said he also planned to strengthen bilateral relations.
“Australia and Cambodia have a longstanding friendship and history of cooperation with this year marking 70 years of diplomatic relations.
“I hope to build on this relationship when I meet with my counterparts later this week.”