Gulf News 16/3/2005
UAE and Australia begin talks on FTA
By Diaa Hadid, Staff Reporter
Canberra: The UAE and Australia are about to begin negotiations on a free trade agreement, officials said at a press conference yesterday.
The negotiations will start here today WAM reported.
Shaikha Lubna Al Qasimi, UAE Minister of Economy and Planning, and Mark Vale, Australia’s Minister of Trade announced their respective governments’ intent to pursue a free trade agreement (FTA) at a press conference held at Australia’s Parliament.
A UAE delegation comprising government officials and businessmen is currently on an official tour of Malaysia, Singapore and Australia.
Sultan Bin Saeed Al Mansouri, Minister of Transport, called on the Australian Aviation Authorities to grant Emirates airline and other national carriers the opportunity for more flights to and from Australia, WAM reported.
A senior Australian trade official said he expected the agreement to be completed “sometime in 2006. It’s difficult to predict because there are a lot of technical issues to be resolved. The quality of the agreement is the most important thing.”
Preliminary discussions about ways to increase trade between the two countries have taken place over the course of several previous meetings, said businessmen accompanying the delegation.
Canberra is specifically interested in negotiations concerning local sponsorship for foreign businesses, Noel Campbell, Australia’s Ambassador to the UAE, said. “We are interested in freer access in joint ventures. [We are also interested in issues such as] local partners and percentages of ownership,” Ambassador Campbell said.
Several UAE businessmen said they wanted tariffs on exports to Australia to be dropped, and wanted to speed up the visa process. “It shouldn’t take two weeks and countless telephone calls to obtain a business visa,” one businessman said. “This discourages trade and directs business elsewhere,” he said.
Meanwhile, the UAE has signed two Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) with Malaysia and Australia. In addition, a letter of intent (LoI) was signed by the UAE and Singapore.