• Dr Lockwood Smith
Foreign Affairs and Trade

Trade Minister Lockwood Smith departs New Zealand today to participate in the annual ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) / Closer Economic Relations (CER) talks in Singapore on 1 October.

AFTA/CER was established in 1995 as a mechanism to reduce barriers to two-way trade and investment between the partners of CER and ASEAN, and plays a key role in New Zealand's thinking on regional trade developments.

"New Zealand's trade with Asia is critically important to New Zealand, and ASEAN has traditionally been one of our fastest growing regional markets. In addition to trade in goods, New Zealand's economic relationship with ASEAN involves trade in consultancy services, tourism, education and two-way investment," said Dr Smith.

"ASEAN and CER Trade Ministers have a substantial agenda. Ministers will review developments within the two trade areas since our last meeting, including the programme of work set down at last month's APEC Meetings in Auckland, and New Zealand and Singapore's announcement of a Free Trade Agreement.

"Ministers will also review the outcomes of the APEC Summit in Auckland, including our collective commitment to give the strongest possible support to the launch of a new Round of multilateral negotiations within the WTO.

"With both CER and AFTA Ministers supporting the launch of a new negotiating round, the meeting will allow Ministers to further discuss the shape of negotiating agenda, and strategies to achieve significant reductions in global tariffs, particularly within the agricultural and industrial sectors.

"CER/AFTA currently has a full programme of trade facilitation activities to assist the flow of goods and services between the two economic blocs. Ministers will review this work, and identify new measures to further reduce and remove barriers to trade across the region," Dr Smith concluded.

Dr Smith returns to New Zealand on Saturday, 2 October 1999.