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ASEAN Economic Ministers recommend negotiations on FTA.

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Media release

5 September - MVT74/2004

ASEAN Economic Ministers Recommend Negotiations on FTA

Trade Minister Mark Vaile today welcomed the decision of ASEAN, Australian and New Zealand economic ministers to recommend the launch of negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement.

"The move towards an FTA is a decisive step forward in Australia's engagement with ASEAN," Mr Vaile said.

Meeting in Jakarta today, ministers recommended to ASEAN, Australian and New Zealand heads of government that they start FTA negotiations in 2005, with the intention

of concluding the negotiation within two years.

ASEAN, Australian and New Zealand leaders will consider the recommendation at their summit in Vientiane, Laos, on 30 November.

"The ASEAN countries collectively account for some 11 per cent of Australia's total exports. It is a growing market and one in which Australian exporters have an ever more important interest.

"The decision builds on our strong network of bilateral trade and investment links within Asia, and complements our bilateral FTAs with Singapore and Thailand, and our scoping studies with Malaysia and China."

Mr Vaile also re-affirmed Australia's commitment to deliver a capacity-building program, designed to help ensure that all ASEAN members could participate fully in the international trading system.

Mr Vaile said the Government would launch an extensive process of consultation with Australian industry and other interested parties to help determine Australia's

approach to the negotiation of an FTA with ASEAN.

ASEAN is a region of 500 million people with a combined gross domestic product of US$676 billion. ASEAN is a major market for Australian exporters. In 2003 ASEAN accounted for 11 per cent of Australia's total exports, valued at $16.8 billion.

Media contact: Matthew Doman (Canberra) +612 6277 7420.