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Trade reports excellent news, says National

23 April 2004

Trade reports excellent news, says National

Reports that ASEAN economic Ministers have recommended that Australia and New Zealand be invited to take part in discussions on a Free Trade Agreement is excellent news, says National's Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesman, Lockwood Smith.

"In 1999, Singapore Trade Minister George Yeo and I, along with our fellow Asean Trade Ministers, initiated a working group to study the possible benefits of bringing CER -- Australia and New Zealand -- into the Asean Free Trade Area (AFTA). That work demonstrated the collective gains for the region to be enormous, many billions of dollars.

Dr Smith says there is now a great opportunity to make progress on this exciting concept, and he has called on the Labour-led Government not to "muck it up".

"In recent years, the only Free Trade Agreement that has been concluded is the one with Singapore. The previous National-led Government negotiated that agreement and I signed the Heads of Agreement with George Yeo in 1999. The Labour Government had to put only the finishing touches to it.

"Since then, the FTA with Hong Kong has stalled, the FTA with the United States is going nowhere and progress on the three-way deal (P3) involving Chile and Singapore has been very slow.

Dr Smith said the Government has in front of it a "marvelous opportunity" to lift New Zealand's economic fortunes to a higher plane. He said this development could also help galvanise progress at the World Trade Organisation by showing the Europeans that other parts of the world will progress trade liberalisation even if they are reluctant.

"Trade deals with ASEAN, the United States and China, plus P3 linking South America through New Zealand to South East Asia, would provide enormous investment and marketing opportunities for New Zealand businesses.

"Sadly, so far the Labour Government has been remarkably unsuccessful in concluding successful trade deals."


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