Channel NewsAsia - Tuesday, April 29 2008
President Nathan says talks on ASEAN-Aust-NZ FTA to conclude in May
WELLINGTON: Talks on the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (FTA) will be concluded next month, said Singapore President SR Nathan at a state banquet at the New Zealand Government House in Wellington on Monday.
"With a combined market of 600 million people, this FTA will bring significant economic benefits to the businesses and peoples of ASEAN, Australia and New Zealand," said Mr Nathan at the dinner hosted by the Governor-General of New Zealand, Anand Satyanand.
Singapore believes that the FTA will allow both Australia and New Zealand to plug their economies into ASEAN.
Already, trade between New Zealand and Singapore alone reached almost S$3.2 billion (NZ$3 billion) in 2007.
Singapore is also an important source of investment for New Zealand. Direct foreign investment rose to over S$1.7 billion (NZ$1.6 billion) in 2007.
Mr Nathan also highlighted how both Singapore and New Zealand have consistently advocated the importance of a free and open global economy.
He said: "As small countries, both New Zealand and Singapore also recognise the need to make a stand when our interests are at stake, even against more dominant states.
"As small states, both our countries also recognise the importance of a stable and open international order; hence we have played an active role in multilateral forums.
"Just as Singapore took an active role in advocating for the cause of landlocked and geographically disadvantaged states during the negotiations on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in the 1970s, New Zealand has been leading the push by the Cairns Group of countries in the WTO (World Trade Organisation) to liberalise agricultural trade."
President Nathan also spoke about the long and close defence relationship between New Zealand and Singapore, highlighting the various military exercises and peace-keeping missions.
He added that Singapore appreciates New Zealand’s contributions as a member of the Five Power Defence Arrangement.
Earlier in the day, President Nathan was given a "warrior’s welcome" at the Government House. He also inspected the guard of honour, and held talks with Governor-General Anand Satyanand.
Mr Nathan, accompanied by his wife, visited the National War Memorial later on Monday.
Mr Nathan will meet Prime Minister Helen Clark on Tuesday, the third day of his visit to New Zealand.