Trade Coup for NZ at APEC

  • Dr Lockwood Smith
International Trade

International Trade Minister Lockwood Smith says New Zealand has achieved a major breakthrough at APEC, with ministers endorsing an unprecedented and historic agreement to liberalise trade in fish and forest products.

"This is great news for the New Zealand economy and the environment," Dr Smith said from Vancouver, where the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting is being held.

"Fish and fish products and forest products are key export sectors for New Zealand with exports to the APEC region worth $NZ3 billion last year. When the liberalisation process is complete, the fish and forestry sectors will enjoy benefits worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year.": The minister also noted that continuing high subsidies posed a major threat to fisheries resources in some APEC economies, as the subsidies encouraged exploitation of the resources.

"The elimination of these and other barriers will make a huge difference to sustainable resource management." The package of trade initiatives agreed at APEC will see immediate progress towards freeing up trade in nine sectors worth more than $US500 billion a year.

The sectors selected are: fish and fish products, forest products, energy, toys, gems and jewellery, chemicals, medical equipment and instruments, telecommunications, environmental goods and services.

Liberalisation starts in 1999. The removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers and the elimination of subsidies in these sectors are scheduled for completion within ten years.

Dr Smith acknowledged that agreeing to this package has been extremely difficult for governments such as Japan and Korea.

"I am extremely grateful to these governments for the attitude they have taken towards freeing up trade. Convincing their domestic constituencies of the benefits is going to take some time. The package is bold and will do much to enhance APEC's credibility. It will also be well received by international capital markets." In addition to the nine sectors for immediate liberalisation, ministers recommended a further six sectors for consideration in November 1998. These are: food, natural and synthetic rubber, fertilisers, automobiles, civil aircraft, oilseeds and oilseed products.