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Labour & environmental issues in FTA talk, says NZ

Labour & Environmental Issues In FTA Talk, Says NZ

By M. Saraswathi and Massita Ahmad

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 18 (Bernama) — Labour and environmental issues will still be included in the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiation between Australia, New Zealand and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, a senior New Zealand trade official said.

"It is still on the table but they are not the key issues," said lead negotiator for Asean-Australia/New Zealand FTA, Martin Harvey.

The negotiation will also cover core issues such as services, goods and investment, he told Bernama on the sidelines of the senior economic officials consultative meeting with dialogue partners, here today.

"People need to sit down and look at the actual details of what we are proposing, that’s all we are asking," he said.

Asean groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Yesterday, Australia’s Trade Task Force head for Asia, Michael Mugliston, said his country would not link labour and environmental issues in their negotiation for a trade pact with the 10-member grouping.

Australia and New Zealand are negotiating free-trade talk with Asean under the so-called Asean-Australia/New Zealand Close Economic Relationship (CER).

Among others, Asean plans to narrow the gap on rules of origin regulations with both countries to ensure mutual benefits under the FTA.

Asean wants to eliminate 40 per cent rule of origin requirement for products exported to both countries, mostly focusing on industrial goods and fishery products. This means that at least 40 per cent of a product must originate in the exporting country.

Currently, New Zealand has framework agreements on labour and environment with Thailand, Brunei and Singapore.

Asked whether the labour and environmental issues were a stumbling block, Harvey said: "I don’t think so... it is part of the negotiation."

The aim was to conclude the negotiation by May 2007, he said.

Asked on the intellectual property (IP) issue, he said it should be part of Asean with the provisions tailored according to the needs of each Asean member country.

Asean is New Zealand’s fifth largest trading partner.

"We would like our relations with Asean to be stronger, especially in the economic and political areas, and the FTA will provide the structure. So, it is important that we can conclude this negotiation," Harvey said.

 source: Bernama