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Minister Welcomes Select Committee Report

The foreign affairs, defence, and trade select committee's report on the relationship with Australia was an informed contribution to discussions on where we take the economic relationship with Australia, Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton said today.

The select committee's report was tabled in Parliament this afternoon.

Mr Sutton said the report was quite clear that the Closer Economic Relations trade agreement between Australia and New Zealand had been a success story for New Zealand.

"Australia is our most important economic partner. It is the destination for a fifth of our exports and the source of about a fifth of our imports.

"The trade balance was heavily in Australia's favour when CER was signed, but is now almost one for one.

"Beyond trade, in terms of investment and in terms of our common economic interests around the world, for both industry and government, this is our most important economic relationship."

Mr Sutton said the report also made clear that CER had been a success story for Australia.

"By and large, the committee received strong positive comments about CER from those it talked to in Australia.

'The report emphasises that there is still much that can be done to progress CER. The Government has a very active work programme working with Australia on progressing CER on a number of fronts. These include tax issues, business law coordination, harmonising regulations, science and innovation cooperation and many other issues. We are in active discussion with the business community about what issues we should be giving priority to. "

Mr Sutton said the committee had suggested ideas for extending CER. These would be considered carefully and responded to within the next three months.


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