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Include Services, Intellectual Property In FTA, Says Australia

Bernama, Malaysia

Include Services, Intellectual Property In FTA, Says Australia

9 August 2006

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 9 (Bernama) — Australia, which is keen to tie up a free trade agreement (FTA) with Asean) by the end of 2007, wants the services sector and protection of intellectual property (IP) be given top priority in the trade pact.

"From Australia’s perspective, the big gain for us in the FTA with Asean will be in the services sector and the protection of IP.

"We want IP to be a component of the agreement as it is important to us," Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, who was in Kuala Lumpur recently to attend the 39th Asean Ministerial Meeting and the 13th Asean Regional Forum, had told reporters.

He said talks were going on between Asean, Australia and New Zealand to negotiate a FTA that would further help economic integration and strengthen relations between the regions — which are already in the pink at present.

"Asean’s relations with Australia have entered a golden period after the signing of TAC (Treaty of Amity and Cooperation).

"We can repeat the gold medal performance this year and next year.

"So by next year, I hope we can initial a FTA between Asean-Australia and New Zealand and get a good, comprehensive framework agreement liberalising trade barriers," said Downer.

Last December, during the inaugural East Asian Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Downer signed the instrument of Australia’s accession to TAC, a pre-condition to join the summit.

Asean-Australia-New Zealand FTA talks began last year.

The TAC, an outcome of the 1976 Bali Summit, rules out the use of force to settle regional disputes and calls for settlement by peaceful means and also respect for independence and territorial integrity.

With the breakdown in the World Trade Organisation talks in Doha recently, Downer said the trade liberalisation agenda was vital for Asean, Australia and New Zealand as it could help expand intra-regional trade.

Asean-Australian two-way trade topped RM122 billion (A$43.9 billion), with exports worth RM44.2 billion (A$15.9 billion) and imports worth over RM77.8 billion (A$28 billion) last year.

Major Australian exports to the region included crude petroleum, non-monetary gold, aluminium, copper and dairy products. Over the same period, Australia’s exports of services were worth over RM14.1 billion (A$5.1 billion).