AFTA & CER TO INVESTIGATE FREE TRADE AREAForeign Affairs and Trade
Trade Ministers from ASEAN, Australia and New Zealand have today agreed to establish a high-level ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) / Closer Economic Relations (CER) Task Force to look into the feasibility of establishing a free trade area by 2010, according to Trade Minister Lockwood Smith.
Ministers' nominated HE Mr Cesar Virata, former Prime Minister of the Philippines to lead the study, which will be completed in time for consideration at the ASEAN Economic Ministers' Meeting to be held in Thailand in October 2000.
Speaking from Singapore at the conclusion of the annual AFTA / CER consultations, Dr Smith said that he was delighted that this initiative has been accepted by all ASEAN and CER Ministers.
"The CER / AFTA dialogue has been underway for some years now as a process of developing support for a much closer economic relationship between these two key free trade areas in our region," Dr Smith said.
"The decision to negotiate a free trade area between New Zealand and Singapore, announced by Prime Ministers Jenny Shipley and Goh Chok Tong at the APEC Meetings in Auckland on 11 September, was taken with a view to providing a catalyst for a development such as this.
"I'm delighted that this agreement appears to have had an immediate and positive impact on this much broader group. The FTA between Singapore and New Zealand will link directly into APEC's Bogor Goals of free and open trade across the region, and will provide useful momentum to APEC's ongoing work. If this agreement between our two countries were then to be followed by the negotiation of a FTA linking all the economies of ASEAN and CER, that would have far reaching and positive implications for New Zealand's future.
"Clearly, with the new World Trade Organisation round, our objective is to promote New Zealand's economic interests in all areas using whatever opportunities present themselves. In the long run however, this should not obscure the reality that New Zealand's fundamental interests are working ever closer with Australia, and key economies of our region, including in Asia and the Americas. We believe this study can only contribute to that strategy.
We will be consulting closely with stakeholders within New Zealand, particularly within the rural, manufacturing and services sectors, to ensure that their views are taken into account in the development of this study.
Dr Smith returns to New Zealand on Saturday 2 October 1999.
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Attached: Ministerial Communique, ASEAN Economic and CER Ministers ASEAN is made up of Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.