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Joint statement New Zealand-Thailand Prime Ministerial meeting

Press Release: New Zealand Government

New Zealand - Thailand Prime Ministerial Meeting

19 April 2005


Prime Ministers Thaksin Shinawatra of Thailand and Helen Clark of New Zealand today announced the signing of a Closer Economic Partnership (CEP) Agreement between their two countries. The CEP was signed by Minister of Commerce of Thailand, Dr Thanong Bidaya, and New Zealand Minister for Trade Negotiations, Hon Jim Sutton, in the presence of the two Prime Ministers.

Agreements on Labour, and Environment, were also signed by Mr Sutton with the Thai Minister of Labour, Mr Sora-at Klinprathum, and Minister of Natural Resources, Mr Yongyuth Tiyapairat, respectively. These set out political commitments and establish mechanisms for ongoing cooperation and dialogue on these issues.

Mr Sutton and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand, Dr Kantathi Suphamongkhon, signed a working holiday scheme which will provide for 100 young people from each country to live and work in the other for twelve months.

The Prime Ministers noted an excellent progress towards stronger strategic partnership as they met again in less than one year following Prime Minister Thaksin’s official visit to New Zealand in July 2004. They recalled their commitment at the APEC Leaders’ Meeting in Bangkok in 2003 to negotiate a CEP, and welcomed a successful conclusion of the Agreement which will come into force on 1 July 2005.

The CEP is seen by both sides to be not just of economic importance but also of strategic significance. It will make both countries more competitive in the global market place by encouraging Thais and New Zealanders to pool their expertise, ideas, technology and resources. In addition, the CEP is expected to promote linkages between Thai and New Zealand business people. The CEP also advances shared objectives in APEC and the WTO.

Prime Ministers Thaksin and Clark noted they were pleased with the outcome of the negotiations. In economic terms, the CEP provides for comprehensive liberalisation of trade in goods, with a substantial proportion of tariffs to be eliminated on implementation and the remainder under phasing arrangements. Thailand and New Zealand have agreed to conclude an agreement aimed at liberalising trade in services, with negotiations due to start within three years. The Agreement also calls for the setting up of mechanisms to facilitate trade and to promote cooperation between the two countries across a range of trade-related issues.

Prime Minister Thaksin welcomed New Zealand’s willingness in principle to contribute New Zealand expertise to the implementation of his government’s adjustment strategy for the Thai dairy industry.

The Prime Ministers concluded that the Closer Economic Partnership Agreement, along with the other bilateral arrangements negotiated in parallel with the CEP, represent a major step forward in the bilateral relationship between Thailand and New Zealand.

The two Prime Ministers also envisage the CEP serving as a building block for the regional ASEAN/Australia/New Zealand FTA initiative. It would expand the growing linkages between Asia and the Pacific, as reflected in Thailand’s becoming a Pacific Island Forum Dialogue Partner, and New Zealand’s 30-year history of relations with ASEAN.

The two Prime Ministers encouraged the fostering of better socio-cultural understanding between young people and promoting our respective tourism and education sectors through the Working Holiday Scheme which will eventually lead to the expansion of business and trade opportunities.

The Prime Ministers looked forward to taking further concrete steps to develop the bilateral relationship in 2006, the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Thailand and New Zealand which will be celebrated with a series of business and cultural events. In this regard, the two Prime Ministers agreed to set up a Joint Committee which will be chaired by their respective foreign ministers as a framework overseeing the overall non-trade co-operation. They also announced an exchange of Prime Ministers’ Fellows, to enable young political figures to understand more about each other’s countries.

The two Prime Minister envisaged increased co-operation within the ASEAN framework and agreed to continue to cooperate proactively in regional efforts, especially in projects under the Mekong Institute and the Ayeyawdy-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS) with a view to promoting peace, stability and economic prosperity for the benefits of the two countries and the Asia Pacific region as a whole.