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Sutton Welcomes New Dialogue With Asean

11 February 2000


SUTTON WELCOMES NEW DIALOGUE WITH ASEAN

Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton today welcomed the start of an important new dialogue examining the scope for a free trade agreement linking New Zealand, Australia and the 10 member nations of ASEAN.

A high-level Task Force held its first meeting in Jakarta this week and is due to report to Governments in October on how best to link CER and AFTA -- ASEAN’s free trade agreement -- by 2010. The Task Force is chaired by former Philippines Prime Minister Virata, and New Zealand is represented by former Treasurer Sir William Birch.

Mr Sutton said he was delighted to have received a positive report from Sir William on progress made by the Task Force at its first meeting.

“The creation of an FTA linking ASEAN and CER could be hugely beneficial to the New Zealand economy,” Mr Sutton said.

“It would create a wide range of new market opportunities for New Zealand exporters of goods and services and could have enormous strategic benefits in encouraging other countries in Asia and North America to open their markets to New Zealand exports. This means new jobs for New Zealanders.”

Mr Sutton noted that ASEAN was already a market of major trade and investment potential for New Zealand, with two-way trade worth well over NZ$3 billion annually. That total was set to expand further as ASEAN economies rebounded from the recent Asian economic crisis.

ASEAN is also an important source of tourists and students for New Zealand.

Mr Sutton said the Task Force had accepted an invitation to hold its second meeting in New Zealand in late April.

“The initiative to establish an ASEAN-CER Task Force to examine the scope for an FTA will be important elements in my discussions next week in both Bangkok and Singapore,” the Minister said.
“I will be also be reviewing with Prime Minister Goh, and Trade Minister BG Yeo, progress on our bilateral free trade negotiations with Singapore which began last October and are due to conclude in May.”

Note: ASEAN is the Association of South East Asian Nations, comprising Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Viet Nam. They are establishing a free trade area under AFTA (the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement).

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