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CEP Partnership Must Be Tripartite With Australia

Thursday, December 6th, 2001

NZ-US Closer Economic Partnership Must Be Tripartite With Australia

Progressing a free trade agreement with the United States requires New Zealand and Australia to first align their interests before expecting discussions to commence with the United States, the Employers & Manufacturers Association (Northern) reports.

"Today's conference Creating Coalitions of Interest: a New Zealand-United States Closer Economic Partnership, identified a free trade agreement with the US, if discussions are to commence, will most likely include both New Zealand and Australia," said Gilbert Peterson, EMA's trade spokesman.

"US Ambassador to New Zealand Charles Swindells and Fred Benson, President of the US-NZ Business Council in Washington, made clear a CEP with the US had a far better chance if the trans Tasman partners under CER were agreed on what to table.

"The US rightly views the CER partners as 'one economy, two countries' with no desire to duplicate negotiations.

"The message is we need to get alongside Australia and sort out our differences, or both countries will stay on a long waiting list for preferential trade access.

"The conference was most valuable for identifying the extent of the work needed before talks on a CEP might begin, the enthusiasm for the cause, and the great advantages New Zealand has to harness towards it. The size of the prize is vast - in excess of a $1 billion a year in trade gains, and we have to be realistic over the time and investment it may take to land.

"Nonetheless we can take heart that the US is holding discussions on possible FTA's with two economies roughly our size: Singapore and Chile. Singapore has arrived at the negotiating table within the last two years; Chile has been waiting over a decade.

"Speakers also urged conference delegates to recognise the potential obstacles to progress presented by New Zealand's own regulations relating to intellectual property, parallel importing and pharmaceuticals."


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