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Conclusion of ASEAN FTA negotiations


Hon Phil Goff

Minister of Trade


28 August 2008

Media statement

Goff announces conclusion of ASEAN FTA negotiations


Trade Minister Phil Goff today welcomed the conclusion of the ASEAN – Australia – New Zealand free trade agreement (AANZFTA).

Mr Goff has been participating in the annual ASEAN-CER Ministerial meeting in Singapore.

“Reaching substantive conclusion on the FTA is a significant achievement and one that represents a huge milestone in New Zealand’s engagement with the world’s most economically dynamic region,” Mr Goff said from Singapore.

“Our meetings over the last two days went extremely well with all of the outstanding issues of interest to New Zealand’s position in the negotiation resolved to our satisfaction.”

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, is made up of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei Darussalam, Vietnam, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Cambodia.

“The ASEAN economies represent a market of more than 575 million people and are an increasingly important destination for New Zealand goods, service suppliers and outward investment.

“When you consider that the ASEAN market for New Zealand merchandise has grown at 24 per cent per year over the past three years you appreciate the scale of opportunity this FTA represents for us.

“Last year ASEAN was New Zealand’s third largest merchandise export market worth NZ$4.6 billion.

“This agreement is the first time that ASEAN has negotiated a comprehensive agreement as part of a ‘single undertaking’. This means that the agreement simultaneously spans goods, services and investment, as well as the other areas covered in a modern FTA such as intellectual property,” Mr Goff said.

“New Zealand exporters currently pay in the vicinity of $50 million in tariffs annually on their trade with these economies.

“The FTA is a means by which we will eliminate tariffs on all key items of trade interest to New Zealand in these markets.

“This means we protect New Zealand businesses’ access to ASEAN as well as securing a competitive advantage against other countries that are also active in the region.

“While an important milestone had been reached, three countries still have a bilateral market access issue to work through before the final agreement is signed. Negotiators are now working to bridge the gaps in this remaining area.”

As with the China FTA that was concluded in April this year, all participating countries will be required to undertake legal verification of the texts and the associated schedules. Once this has been completed domestic approval processes will also need to take place before a finalised document can be put forward for signature.

“The importance of concluding this FTA goes beyond simply trade benefits. The agreement is also critical to New Zealand’s longer term strategic engagement and interactions with the Asia-Pacific region,” Phil Goff said

“New Zealand needs to be an integral part of the regionalisation that is underway. We need to ensure that process remains open and outward looking. This FTA, the most comprehensive agreement that ASEAN has ever concluded is an important part of this process,” he said.


ENDS

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