Australian Trade minister Simon Crean said Friday he will push for progress on a free trade agreement between Australia, New Zealand and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations at a meeting of Asean economic ministers in Bali this weekend.
The four-day meeting May 2-4 will also provide an opportunity for Australia to lobby for a successful conclusion of the long-stalled Doha round of global trade talks this year, Crean said in a statement.
The minister will meet with US Trade Representative Susan Schwab and India’s Commerce minister Kamal Nath in Bali.
Progress in the Doha global trade talks, which began in November 2001, has been hobbled by resistance to deep tariff cuts from developing countries such as Brazil and India, while the US and European Union have been criticised for holding up the talks by not going far enough to cut farm subsidies.
Australia is a major global supplier of farm products, and stands to benefit from any liberalisation of global trade in this area.
Turning to the Australia-Asean-New Zealand free trade talks, Crean said Australian businesses have identified barriers to Asean markets, particularly in manufactured goods, agriculture, and services.
“Reducing these barriers will benefit Australian businesses. It will also benefit Asean,” Crean said.
“The consultations provide an important and timely opportunity to resolve some key outstanding issues in the negotiations for a free trade agreement,” he said.
Asean comprises Brunei Darrusalem, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.