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Trade Minister Meeting with ASEAN Economic Ministers in Bali, 2-4 May.



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The Hon Simon Crean MP Minister for Trade

M E D I A R E L E A S E

Media contact: Mr Crean’s Office - David Walker 02 6277 7420 or 0407 133 020

Departmental (02) 6261 1555

SC031 2 May 2008

TRADE MINISTER MEETING WITH ASEAN ECONOMIC MINISTERS IN BALI, 2-4 MAY

The Trade Minister, Simon Crean, will visit Bali, Indonesia, from 2 to 4 May to attend the ASEAN Economic Ministers - Closer Economic Relations (AEM-CER) consultations.

Australia is pressing hard to finalise negotiations this year on the Australia-ASEAN-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA).

The Bali meeting will also provide Mr Crean with an opportunity to continue Australia’s efforts to pursue a successful conclusion of the WTO Doha Round this year, including in meetings with United States Trade Representative, Susan Schwab, and India’s Commerce Minister, Kamal Nath, who will also be in Bali.

The AEM-CER consultations bring together Ministers from the 10 ASEAN countries with the Trade Ministers from Australia and New Zealand (the parties to the CER Agreement).

Mr Crean said Australia has put forward an ambitious offer to ASEAN and in turn is seeking ambitious commitments from ASEAN ministers to conclude a comprehensive free trade agreement.

“I am going to Bali committed to concluding a strong agreement,” said Mr Crean. “I will be looking for similar commitment from my ASEAN counterparts.”

“Australia, ASEAN and New Zealand have made solid progress on the negotiations in recent months, and the scope of the agreement is emerging more clearly.”

“But as outstanding issues become more sharply defined, it’s clear that tough negotiations lie ahead. All sides will need to show more flexibility if we are to reach an agreement this year.”

Australian businesses have identified barriers to ASEAN markets, especially in manufactured goods, agriculture and services. Australia is seeking to reduce barriers, including on services, in the negotiations.

“Reducing these barriers will benefit Australian businesses,” Mr Crean said. “It will also benefit ASEAN.”

ASEAN comprises Brunei Darussalam, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

“The consultations provide an important and timely opportunity to resolve some key outstanding issues in the negotiations for a free trade agreement between Australia and New Zealand and ASEAN.”