International Business Forum queries Asean deal

by | Jul 4, 2008 | Media Releases

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The New Zealand International Business Forum today expressed unease about progress being made with the New Zealand, Australia, ASEAN Free Trade Agreement.

“We applaud the efforts of Trade Minister Goff and his officials of doing their utmost to bring this negotiation to a positive conclusion for all parties but we are concerned that the outcome might be less than fully comprehensive” said International Business Forum Chairman Graeme Harrison.

Mr Harrison said the Forum understood that ASEAN negotiators were trying to limit the scope of tariff cuts relating to meat and dairy products.

“Meat and dairy exports are the backbone of the New Zealand economy. They also constitute 55 percent of New Zealand’s exports to ASEAN. While the tariffs in dairy at least are not high, it would send the wrong signal to other potential FTA partners, especially Korea, Japan and the United States, if New Zealand were to agree that such key sectors should be excluded or that the end point of the FTA was not the elimination of all tariffs”.

Mr Harrison said that the Forum, which brings together some of the country’s largest exporters and the major business organisations, supported the Government’s effort to conclude an FTA with ASEAN together with Australia.

“We accept this has been a difficult negotiation and that it involves multiple partners. We recognise too the opportunity of negotiating alongside Australia. But FTAs must at the end of the day make sense for New Zealand’s international business strategy. Excluding key sectors run the risk of setting unfortunate precedents. We can live with long lead-in times if we have to but the goal of any free trade agreement should ultimately be zero tariffs. ”

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