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Communique From Last Week's CER Talks

Joint Ministerial Statement by the Hon Mark Vaile, Minister for Trade and the Hon Jim Sutton, New Zealand Minister for Trade Negotiations

The Minister for Trade, the Hon Mark Vaile, and the New Zealand Minister for Trade Negotiations, the Hon Jim Sutton, met for the annual Australia-New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Trade Ministers' meeting on 15-16 August 2001 in the Hunter Valley, NSW.

"As we do each year, we reviewed the progress of the Australia-New Zealand Closer Economic Relationship (CER), discussed outstanding issues from our meeting in Auckland last year and identified where further work might be done.

We noted the very positive cooperation that had characterised CER relations during the year and welcomed the ongoing and extensive consultation between Australia and New Zealand on a range of multilateral, regional and bilateral trade and economic issues. Annual growth of around 12 per cent in trans-Tasman trade over the past decade highlights the benefits to business of CER as one of the world's most comprehensive free trade agreements. Total bilateral trade in 1999-2000 was over $14 billion (including $3.2 billion in services).

We welcomed as part of our discussions an extremely fruitful exchange with a range of Australian and New Zealand business representatives. The business representatives' participation in the meeting is a tangible symbol of the benefits of CER and its potential for our two countries. These are people working in the CER single market and beyond, both regionally and globally. We valued their contribution to the debate on the future development of CER.

We were delighted with the in-principle decisions of both governments to establish a joint therapeutics goods regulatory agency. The work currently being undertaken by officials in this area is a significant milestone for CER. It offers exciting potential for groundbreaking work in developing arrangements that could support future joint regulatory endeavours. We also welcomed the close cooperation between Australia and New Zealand on food standards and related issues, including the successful passage of the Australia New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA) Amendment Bill in June. We were pleased with the good progress on the subsequent amendments to the Joint Australia New Zealand Food Standards Treaty: both countries are expected to table the amendments in Parliament shortly.

We welcomed the decision by our respective Treasurers to proceed with developing a mechanism for possible relief on triangular taxation. We noted that an issues paper on implementation of this decision is expected to be released next month. The paper will serve as a primer for public consultation on the proposed reform of triangular taxation.

We are pleased with the progress that has been made this year on cooperation under the Memorandum of Understanding on Business Law Coordination. There is significant potential for further business cooperation. We have a strong interest in capital market issues and approaches as we look for ways to move further towards integration in this area. In this context we support the high priority that our business communities accord further business law coordination. The already high degree of integration of our economies underscores the continuing priority we need to give to reducing costs to our businesses.

We were particularly pleased by the recent high level attention to the increasingly close science and technology/innovation cooperation between the two countries. We noted the potential for such cooperation to strengthen the economies of our two countries and develop Australia and New Zealand as a global centre of innovation and excellence.

We noted with satisfaction the proactive approach of our two customs departments to further streamline customs procedures between the two countries, and their joint efforts to extend customs 'best practice' regionally and globally.

We commended the good work of officials in taking forward a complex and important biosecurity cooperation agenda. We reviewed several outstanding bilateral quarantine issues, expressed our hope and expectation that these could be resolved within a reasonable timeframe, and reaffirmed our commitment to continuing to uphold international commitments in this area. We welcomed in particular the New Zealand biosecurity authority's decision in principle to open up access to all varieties of Australian tomatoes.

We welcomed the long awaited conclusion of an Australia-New Zealand open skies air services agreement, late last year, Australia's first open skies agreement, now in provisional effect.

We also welcomed proposed joint initiatives to gain additional overseas markets for softwood plantation forestry products. In the context of enhanced forestry cooperation, we noted the importance of maximising a coordinated and strong CER market and discussed the implications of industry assistance and reaffirmed our commitment to timely consultation in accordance with the Agreed Minute on Industry Assistance.

We noted the longstanding strong cooperation between Australia and New Zealand on fisheries issues. We noted the successful fisheries cooperation discussions in Sydney last week and the potential that these represented in terms of ensuring sustainable fisheries management arrangements for our region.

We recognised the importance of promoting increased competitiveness of CER businesses in the region and globally. We agreed that officials should examine initiatives to work together with industry to improve business competitiveness, including rules of origin.

We noted that the Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Arrangement (TTMRA) was a key element in the CER relationship that had already brought significant benefits to both economies. We highlighted the importance of early preparations for a 2003 TTMRA review, and directed officials to increase their efforts in this area with a particular focus on bringing the remaining special exemption areas to a successful conclusion in line with TTMRA objectives.

We agreed that the CER had delivered very substantial benefits to both our countries and would continue to do so. We acknowledged the need to continue the strong tradition of consultation, cooperation and progress that sustains it. In this spirit we had productive discussions on our approaches to prospects for a new WTO Round, negotiations of free trade agreements, the continuing priority we give to APEC and the development of our closer economic partnership with ASEAN. We also discussed bringing to a successful conclusion our joint case against the US on lamb.

We recognise the positive and substantial contribution that trade and investment can make to employment and continued economic growth and reaffirmed our strong support for an open, rules based multilateral trading system as embodied by the WTO. We expressed our strong commitment to efforts to build consensus for the launch of a new market access focused round of multilateral trade negotiations at the 4th WTO Ministerial Conference in Doha, Qatar in November. We agreed to continue to work closely in the lead up to the Ministerial Conference, and to intensify efforts to seek convergence between all members.

We agreed that the APEC Leaders' Meeting in Shanghai offered an important opportunity to reinvigorate our efforts to achieve the Bogor goal of free and open trade and investment, and to define APEC's work program over the next decade.

We agreed that we saw our respective discussions on FTAs with third countries as supportive of and complementary to our efforts in the multilateral arena and agreed that we would continue to consult closely on our respective progress. In particular, we discussed our respective discussions with the US and their implications for CER."

Office of Hon Jim Sutton


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