Australia New Zealand Economic Relations

  • Dr Lockwood Smith
International Trade

JOINT MINISTERIAL STATEMENT

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith MP
Minister for International Trade
New Zealand

The Hon Tim Fischer MP
Deputy Prime Minister
Minister for Trade
Australia

Meeting in Wellington for the annual CER Trade Ministers' Talks, New Zealand's Minister for International Trade, Dr Lockwood Smith, and Australia's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade, Mr Tim Fischer, today issued the following joint statement.

"We reaffirmed today the great value that our two governments attach to the trans-Tasman partnership and to the strong tradition of consultation and cooperation that sustains it. We have particular pleasure in announcing that Australian Prime Minister Howard has accepted New Zealand Prime Minister Shipley's invitation to visit New Zealand from 20 to 22 February 1999 for the purpose of carrying forward the high-level dialogue between the two governments early in New Zealand's year as APEC chair.

"Today we covered a wide range of bilateral and multilateral trade issues relating to CER. CER is an integral part of the trans-Tasman economic relationship which both countries value highly. Efforts to remove barriers to trade under CER have seen bilateral trade increase by over 275 percent since CER's inception in 1983. Two-way trade currently stands at NZ$9.81 billion (year to June 1998). CER has also seen the respective importance which we attach to each other's markets increase significantly with Australia now New Zealand's largest export market and New Zealand currently Australia's fourth largest. We are each other's biggest markets for manufactured exports.

"The importance of CER to both economies has been highlighted by the economic difficulties in Asia and their resulting impact on our two economies. Our experience with CER and commitment to economic reform over the last 15 years has left both economies better able to deal with the difficulties associated with the Asian downturn.

"During our meeting we dealt with a range of industry policy issues. We reaffirmed our commitment to consult on industry assistance measures which might impact on the other partner's industry and to ensure that such

measures upheld our CER and WTO obligations. We noted that while CER had abolished tariffs on trans-Tasman goods, there were still areas where compliance costs faced by businesses merited further examination. We noted that the Australian and New Zealand Customs Services' Trans Tasman Cargo Management Project was an example of a useful initiative looking at ways to reduce these compliance costs at the border and we would encourage its completion.

"We reviewed a number of bilateral quarantine issues, in particular, shared concerns over products subject to the other partner's sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures. We reaffirmed the need to consult in a timely manner on SPS issues that affect both of us. We agreed that greater interagency cooperation between our respective SPS authorities in the form of more regular discussions would aid this process. We committed ourselves to identifying a process for the timely resolution of outstanding SPS issues, including apples.

"Services also form an integral component of the CER trading relationship as formalised in the 1988 CER Protocol on Trade in Services. We noted our commitment to removing the remaining services' inscriptions where and when this becomes possible. On Project Blue Sky, we noted that a mutually satisfactory solution was imminent. Our meeting welcomed the reinvigorated business law dialogue and reaffirmed the commitment to pursue this dialogue through regular discussions on identified issues of mutual interest.

"With all tariffs and quantitative restrictions on goods removed by 1990 and free trade in services substantially achieved, much of the focus of CER was now on 'third generation' regulatory initiatives. We noted that one such initiative, the Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Arrangement (TTMRA) had successfully come into operation on 1 May this year and was bedding down well. The focus of work on TTMRA now is concentrated on the five Cooperation Programmes covering areas temporarily outside the scope of the Arrangement.

"Other 'third generation' CER initiatives such as the Australia New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA) and Arrangement on Food Inspection Measures (AFIM) were also bedding down well. We noted that ANZFA's work on a Joint Food Standard Code was continuing and Australia and New Zealand were looking forward to the review of the ANZFA Treaty to be undertaken next year.

"We noted that we are 14 days away from the introduction of the euro and that this will have a range of practical implications for Australian and New Zealand exporters. In view of the major interests that our two countries share in our respective economic relations with the EU, we agreed to monitor these developments closely and to consult further as appropriate.

"Today's meeting reaffirmed that New Zealand and Australia were on the same page with respect to our objectives in, and assessments of, the key multilateral trade fora. New Zealand and Australia were both committed to working together in the WTO to achieve an ambitious agenda for new

comprehensive round of multilateral trade negotiations and would encourage strong engagement in the preparatory process by the United States who will host the WTO Ministerial in 1999. Our shared interests spread across many areas of WTO activity including our work together in the Cairns Group of agricultural exporters.

"On APEC issues, we noted the importance of next year and New Zealand's role as Chair of APEC. We work closely and effectively on APEC issues and we look forward to continuing this close cooperation and support during New Zealand's term as Chair. We have agreed to work closely in the WTO to achieve a broadening of participation in the tariff liberalisation elements of APEC's Early Voluntary Sectoral Liberalisation initiative.

"Considering the options for advancing trade liberalisation in the Asia-Pacific region, we agreed that CER commended itself as an exemplary template for future free trade arrangements between Australia and New Zealand, on the one hand, and other APEC partners, on the other. CER was elegant in the simplicity of its rules, powerful in its comprehensive coverage and had been implemented during a period when both Australia and New Zealand had drastically lowered their external tariff levels. CER's appropriateness as a model is demonstrated by the strong stimulus it has had on Australia-New Zealand bilateral economic relations.

"We noted too our shared interest in using CER as a means for influencing our wider trading environment. Our involvement in the CER/AFTA and CER/MERCOSUR dialogues are evidence of this interest. From small beginnings tangible gains are being made in the area of trade facilitation."