Australia and New Zealand trade ministers meet for CER talk

Australian Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, the Hon Steven Ciobo MP and New Zealand Minister for Trade and Export Growth, Hon David Parker, have met in Auckland to strengthen trans-Tasman economic links under the Australia-New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement (CER).

The Ministers noted the strong trade and commercial links and special relationship between Australia and New Zealand, and underscored the effectiveness of the CER in demonstrating the advantages of liberalised trade.  Two‑way trans‑Tasman trade totalled NZ$29.9 billion/A$27.4 billion in 2017, with two‑way investment reaching NZ$161.5 billion/A$148 billion.

The Ministers rejected protectionism and agreed on the importance for both nations to continue collaborating to improve the work of the World Trade Organization, as well as to strengthen the rules‑based trade architecture in the region, to benefit both Australian and New Zealand economies.

Mr Ciobo and Mr Parker discussed potential opportunities and issues for Australian and New Zealand producers in the United Kingdom and Europe following Brexit, as well as a number of trade matters of bilateral interest.  They discussed progress in bringing the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP-11) into force and welcomed other economies showing interest in joining the Agreement in future.

Mr Ciobo and Mr Parker highlighted new opportunities for businesses in the trans-Tasman Single Economic Market and referred to economic initiatives announced by the Australian and New Zealand Prime Ministers during their leaders’ meeting in Sydney in March. This work will further enhance trans-Tasman integration, including for small and medium‑sized enterprises (SMEs).

Ministers accordingly announced terms of reference for joint work on “Growing the Digital Economy and Maximising Opportunities for SMEs”.  This work will identify areas offering the greatest potential benefits to both economies to provide new opportunities and boost productivity.  Commencing September 2018 for completion early next year, the study will be undertaken jointly by the Australian and New Zealand Productivity Commissions.

Growing the Digital Economy and Maximising Opportunities for SMEs – Joint Research by the Productivity Commissions of Australia and New Zealand

Scope of Research

At their annual leaders’ meeting in March 2018, the Prime Ministers of Australia and New Zealand commissioned a review into how Australia and New Zealand can work together to remove barriers to growing the digital economy, both between the two countries and into the region, to ensure that the two countries are prepared to seize the opportunities arising from digital transformation.  They also commissioned work to identify opportunities for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to make full use of trans-Tasman economic integration.

Growth in digital technologies ‑ and availability of the data that supports them ‑ has enabled a range of new business models, products and insights, providing new trade opportunities and opportunities to boost productivity.

The Productivity Commissions of Australia and New Zealand will undertake joint research to examine priority areas for growing the digital economy, in particular opportunities for SMEs.

In undertaking the research, the Productivity Commissions should explore the extent to which institutional and regulatory settings in the two countries support opportunities for the utilisation of digital technology.  In doing so, the Commissions should consider the ability of SMEs to benefit from trans-Tasman economic integration and digital technology, including barriers to entry or expansion and any factors specific to SMEs that might impede them harnessing the opportunities from digital technology.

The Productivity Commissions should focus their attention on areas that offer the greatest potential benefits to both economies.

The Commissions should commence the joint work in September and submit a report to leaders, through the Treasurer of Australia and the Finance Minister of New Zealand, by the end of January 2019. The report will be published.

Hon Grant Robertson

Minister of Finance

Hon Scott Morrison