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Goff cautiously supports massive trade bloc plan

Goff cautiously supports massive trade bloc plan

22 August 2006

(NZPA)Trade Minister Phil Goff is cautiously keen on a plan to create the world’s largest trading bloc which would include Asean members and New Zealand and Australia.

Mr Goff will travel to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia today to meet Cabinet ministers from Asean (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations).

New Zealand and Australia support a new Japan proposal for a 16-nation free-trade grouping with China, South Korea, India and the 10-country Asean grouping - which would take in half the world’s population.

The 16 nations last year formed the East Asia Summit - seen as a precursor of an eventual giant free-trade community.

Mr Goff told NZPA the East Asia Summit free trade bloc idea had merit - but he was taking a cautious approach.

"We don’t think that’s going to happen any time soon - if we were to achieve that that would be the world’s largest free trade grouping," he said.

"It’s very interesting with huge potential but still some way off before that might be realised as an objective."

AdvertisementAdvertisementIf the trading bloc was formed it would involve New Zealand’s third, fourth and fifth largest trading partners - Japan, China and Korea, and other countries in the top 10 such as Malaysia and Hong Kong.

"It’s important that New Zealand is an active player in the region that we are seen to be interested and we are furthering our contacts and our relationship with the most dynamic economic area of the world and one that has huge potential for our country," Mr Goff said.

While in Malaysia, Mr Goff, along with his Australian counterpart Mark Vaile, will have talks on the Asean-Australia/New Zealand free trade negotiations.

"It’s been progressing reasonably, it’s not an easy free trade agreement to do because it involves 10 states on one side - which vary from a highly developed state like Singapore to a least developed country like Laos - and the two countries on our side," Mr Goff said.

He hoped talks would be finished sometime next year.

"I think we would rather take a little bit longer to try get a better quality agreement than to try to rush it through.

"So far the progress has been reasonable and it’s moving in the right direction."

While in Malaysia Mr Goff may also have an opportunity to discuss progress on a New Zealand-Malaysia trade deal with Malaysian Trade Minister Rafidah Aziz.

"The talks between New Zealand and Malaysia are 80 per cent complete but there are some sticking points in particular on services that are standing in the way of completion of the talks," Mr Goff said.

"I may have some chances to talk to Minister Rafidah about that but because she is chairing the meetings she will have a very full agenda."

The Doha round of trade talks will also be discussed and Mr Goff has planned a range of bilateral meetings.

He will also be involved in promoting New Zealand products in Malaysia including education and agritech.