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Australia Welcomes Outcome of Pacific Trade Talks

Mr Bruce Billson MP
PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND TRADE

Media Release
PS9 - Friday, 27 May 2005
Australia Welcomes Outcome of Pacific Trade Talks

A joint study will be undertaken on the potential impacts of a comprehensive framework for trade and economic cooperation between Pacific Island Forum countries, Australia and New Zealand, Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Bruce Billson said today.

Mr Billson, who is representing Australia at the Pacific Islands Forum trade ministers meeting in Fiji, said that trade ministers had agreed to the study in advance of discussions on a comprehensive framework for trade and economic cooperation.

"This agreement to conduct a study is important for the economic development of the island countries of the Pacific as they grapple with how best to take advantage of global trade liberalisation," Mr Billson said.

"It is important also for our own trade relations with the South Pacific – a market worth around $2 billion to Australia in 2004.

"Under the existing Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) that came into effect in 2002, there is provision for negotiation of a free trade arrangement including the island countries and Australia and New Zealand beginning in 2011, or potentially sooner if the island countries negotiate a free trade agreement with another developed country.

"Pacific trade ministers have agreed today that we must now take the first substantive steps towards such an arrangement. They have agreed to commission a joint study to investigate the potential impacts of a move towards a comprehensive framework for trade and economic cooperation between Australia, New Zealand and the Forum island countries.

"Ministers have agreed also to an analysis of the needs of island countries, including their capacity to deal with trade issues, and in the areas of trade promotion and structural reform."

ENDS

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