APEC Vital for Australia: Vaile: The Federal Minister for Trade, Mark Vaile, Outlines the Government's Views on Regional Trade Policy and What the Focus Areas Will Be Moving into the Future. (Cover Story)
The Federal Minister for trade, Mark Vaile, outlines the government's views on regional trade policy and what the focus areas will be moving into the future.
ECONOMIC ENGAGEMENT with South-East Asia remains one of the Government's highest trade policy priorities.
Australia's approach aims to bolster our trade and investment presence and to secure the best possible access and conditions for exporters. While the Government is convinced that the greatest progress towards trade liberalisation will be achieved through multilateral negotiations, and a new WTO round remains Australia's highest priority, the Government's trade policy demonstrates how regional and bilateral initiatives can complement these efforts.
APEC remains a key element of Australia's regional trade policy. In 2000, nearly three quarters of Australia's merchandise exports -- worth $82 billion -- went to other APEC economies, a 29 per cent increase over the previous year. APEC's average tariffs have declined by one-third in the last five years, and more than two-thirds of imports in APEC now take place at very low tariff levels of five per cent or less. APEC is also undertaking "nuts and bolts" work on facilitating trade -- producing real cost savings for business in areas such as customs, mutual recognition of standards and business mobility.
The current economic slowdown underlines the importance of continuing APEC's work towards open economies and economic reform, including the launch of a new round of WTO negotiations this year in Doha. We will emphasise this message at the Ministerial and Leaders' meetings to be held in Shanghai in October.
Ensuring continued prosperity in the region requires parallel reform and capacity building across a range of areas. With this in mind, Australia will also seek a strong and visionary commitment based on four parallel "pathways to prosperity" -- strong trading and investment relations, strong governance, strong markets and strong communities -- to sustain APEC's forward momentum on economic liberalisation.
Australia and New Zealand are building on years of practical business cooperation to advance economic integration with South-East Asia.
Last year the Trade Ministers of the 10 ASEAN countries, along with Australia and New Zealand, agreed to work towards a Closer Economic Partnership (CEP). In Hanoi on 16 September, we endorsed a framework for the CEP.
We also agreed to develop an instrument to formalise the framework to be signed at our next meeting in Brunei in September 2002. Although not a preferential free trade agreement, the decision to formalise the CEP is a major step forward in our relations with South-East Asia. …