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New Zealand welcomes ASEAN-CER backing

6 July 2004

New Zealand welcomes ASEAN-CER backing

Confirmation that a free trade negotiation involving ASEAN, New Zealand and Australia is likely to be launched at a special leaders' summit in November is good news for New Zealand, Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton said today.

Mr Sutton said a trade agreement between the ASEAN countries on the one hand and Australia and New Zealand on the other would strengthen the economies of all 12 countries involved.

"The economies of South East Asia have great prospects for growth and New Zealand needs to make sure it can take advantage of any moves to liberalise trade with our key trading partners in the region."

Prospects that an FTA negotiation might be in the offing were firmed up last week at an ASEAN foreign ministers meeting in Jakarta, Mr Sutton said.

That meeting endorsed an earlier proposal made by ASEAN economic ministers to convene a special summit, involving both New Zealand and Australia, which would cover "all issues of common concern". ASEAN Foreign Ministers also welcomed "the proposal of ASEAN economic ministers to launch ASEAN-CER FTA negotiations this year".

Mr Sutton said New Zealand was already working with Australia and ASEAN countries on ways to advance the FTA concept.

"I hope we will make further progress when ASEAN and CER economic ministers meet in Indonesia in September.

"The ASEAN region is hugely important for New Zealand. It has a combined population of over 500 million people and an estimated GDP of $US 737 billion. Five ASEAN countries are among New Zealand's top 20 trading partners. Our manufactured exports currently amount to $NZ 2.2 billion a year. Services trade in areas such as education and tourism is growing steadily."

ENDS

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