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Wood And Paper Industry Expansion On CER Agenda

Media statement for immediate release

13 December, 2004

Wood And Paper Industry Expansion On CER Ministers’ Agenda

Government Ministers in New Zealand and Australia have been asked to assist the further development of the wood and paper industries of the two countries as part of the weekend’s CER Business Dialogue in Queenstown.

New Zealand Forest Industries Council Chairman Lees Seymour said having wood and paper products on the CER agenda demonstrated the importance of the industry for both Australia and New Zealand. In New Zealand, the wood and paper industry contributes 4% of the nation’s GDP, while in Australia it contributes 2%. Together the two industries directly employ more than 100,000 people, particularly in rural and regional areas.

The meeting was a chance for the wood and paper industries of both Australia and New Zealand to convey to Ministers the outcome of their discussions on trade policy, product standards, the promotion of wood products and education and training. The discussion built on the outcome of the inaugural Trans-Tasman Forest and Wood Products Forum held in Canberra last April.

Australia’s industry representative and A3P Board member Ken Robertson said that Ministers were told the two industries had a strategic interest in working closely together to build industry competitiveness and promote their products.

“Both Australia and New Zealand industries contribute significantly to the economies of their countries. We share a plantation forestry resource and research organisations. We have companies like Carter Holt Harvey, Laminex, Norske Skog and Weyerhaeuser established on both sides of the Tasman. Sure, we compete with each other, but we also compete with other products like concrete and steel”, said Mr Roberston.

Mr Robertson said the industry received a positive response from the six Ministers in attendance. Both A3P and NZFIC were encouraged at the prospect of working with both Governments to achieve growth through addressing matters of common interest.

Mr Seymour said that both industries had shown considerable growth. “With the right domestic and trade environments, and with renewed government commitment to maintaining the competitiveness of the industry, we have the potential to grow even further”, said Mr Seymour.

He also acknowledged the countries shared similar challenges to the future competitiveness of the industry, including the cost of increasing regulation; tariffs, subsidies and non-tariff barriers in competitor countries; the lack of adequate skills; and competition from alternative materials despite the superior environmental credentials of wood.

At the meeting Ministers were advised:

- That there is scope for the two governments to expand official co-operation in areas affecting the industries’ future development. One possibility was to form closer links between Australia’s National Industry Growth Strategy and New Zealand’s Wood Processing Strategy

- That both countries should work together in various bilateral and multilateral trade negotiations, to eliminate tariffs and non tariff barriers on trade in wood products, particularly in the construction and building sector

- That regulatory requirements in the wood products sector should be based on scientific assessment, risk analysis and should take into account industry views

- That governments should take more active steps to promote wood and paper products, particularly from an environmental perspective

- That steps should be taken to explore how existing education, training and innovation organisations might work more closely together.

The Australia-New Zealand wood and paper products industries intend to continue to develop their interaction through the Trans-Tasman Forest and Wood Products Forum.

EDITOR’S NOTE:

A briefing paper outlining the discussions is available by request or on the websites www.nzfic.org.nz or www.a3p.asn.au

ENDS

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