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New Zealand Left Behind by US/Australia FTA

New Zealand Left Behind by US/Australia FTA

"The US/Australia free trade agreement will benefit Australia and New Zealand should redouble efforts to match its benefits", Roger Kerr, executive director of the New Zealand Business Roundtable, said today.

""Too much local commentary has focused on the limitations of the agreement for access to the United States of a few agricultural products.

"Its significance is far wider than that. The United States is the world's pre-eminent country and a leader in productivity, technology and innovation. The historic importance of the agreement is that it will strengthen Australia's business and investment ties and its political and security relationships with the United States, and help make Australia a more competitive and dynamic economy."

Mr Kerr said that the agreement extended well beyond agriculture and covered the important sectors of manufacturing and services. Australia would also gain from the stimulus of greater competition in its domestic markets, and the impetus to ongoing economic reform.

Although there were disadvantages of trade diversion with bilateral agreements, these can be reduced by general liberalisation, and in the case of the United States they were likely to be outweighed by the gains. Moreover, the initial timetables for freeing trade could well be accelerated down the track, as experience with New Zealand 's Closer Economic Relations Agreement with Australia showed.

"The decision by our major trading partner, Australia , to go it alone with the United States was not good news for New Zealand . Even though it would not be an ideal scenario, New Zealand would do well to rebuild its relationships with the United States and Australia by seeking an early agreement on similar terms, rather than being left well back in the queue of countries with which the United States is negotiating FTAs", Mr Kerr concluded.

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