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 21 Jan 2009

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Asean to sign trade pact with Australia, New Zealand in Feb

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) will ink a free trade deal with Australia and New Zealand next month, reported the Jakarta Post.

The deal will allow a freer flow of goods between the Asean region and both countries, with a combined market of more than 600 million people.

Indonesian Trade Minister Mari Elka Pangestu said recently the free trade agreement (FTA) would be signed on February 27 during the
Asean summit in Thailand.

“Our negotiations with (Australia and New Zealand) have been completed. There are no longer any stumbling blocks,” she said.

“(We) plan to sign (the FTA) on February 27 during the (Asean) summit in Thailand.”

The FTA was supposed to be inked by December last year, as mandated by the 13th consultation between the Asean Economic Ministers (AEM) and the Ministers of Australia and New Zealand on Aug. 28 last year in Singapore.

Under the FTA plan, each Asean member state will make a bilateral deal with Australia and New Zealand.

Asean groups together Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei Darussalam, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, with a combined population of 575 million as of 2007.

Under the bilateral deal between Indonesia and Australia, Indonesia commits itself to scrap 1,409 tariff lines in the automotive sector in stages, starting this year, opening up strong competition with the established Japanese manufacturers which control 80 percent of the country’s car, van and truck market.

PT Toyota Astra Motor president director Johnny Dharmawan, however, said he was “not too worried” about the FTA since Australian manufacturers focused on big vehicles,

“We only produce small ones, such as MPVs (Multi Purpose Vehicles).” said Johnny.

Asean’s total merchandise trade on goods with Australia and New Zealand jumped by 16.6 percent to $47.8 billion in 2007 from $41.0 billion in 2006. Asean exports grew to $31.0 billion in 2007 from $26.2 billion in 2006, while imports rose to $16.8 billion in 2007 from $14.8 billion in 2006.




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