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NZ, Australia, ASEAN launch free trade talks

1 December 2004 Media Statement

New Zealand, Australia, ASEAN launch free trade talks

New Zealand, Australia, and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) are to launch negotiations towards a Free Trade Agreement, Prime Minister Helen Clark announced today.

“This agreement is a significant trade breakthrough and an opportunity to build closer links with our ASEAN neighbours,” the Prime Minister said.

“Five ASEAN countries are among our top twenty trading partners and the region accounts for more than eight per cent of New Zealand’s exports. A free trade agreement would mean better access for New Zealand to a market of over half a billion people. ”

“More important still, an FTA would help to strengthen New Zealand’s strategic ties with a region which is very significant to us. New Zealand already has a free trade agreement with Singapore, a new agreement with Thailand is also being announced this evening, and we are studying the benefits of launching negotiations with Malaysia in 2005.”

Negotiations on a New Zealand-Australia FTA with ASEAN will get underway early in 2005.

The FTA announcement came at the end of an historic commemorative summit meeting in Vientiane involving Helen Clark, Australian Prime Minister John Howard, and ASEAN leaders.

“For thirty years New Zealand and Australia have been Dialogue Partners with ASEAN. Back in 1975, our relationship with members of the grouping was oriented variously to defence, development, and education links.”

“In the three decades since, it has grown beyond governmental contacts to include a wider range of economic, academic and people-to-people links.”

“New Zealand is moving to become more closely engaged with the countries of South East Asia. With today’s announcement of negotiations towards an FTA, we have the opportunity to take another important step in the development of this very important regional relationship”, Helen Clark said.


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