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Free Trade
August 1. 2007

Asean resistance delays deal
Resistance by some Asean countries to opening their markets is delaying a planned free-trade agreement between Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asia, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer was quoted by Bloomberg news as saying.

``We can reach an agreement. We're looking for better access on services,'' Downer said on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations meetings in Manila on August 1. ``We want more access on that, and of course agriculture.

Downer didn't identify specific countries delaying the accord, which was intended to have been concluded by the middle of 2007. Negotiators are meeting in Perth, Australia until the end of this week to try to reach an agreement, now expected to be concluded by the end of the year, he said.

``In my view, it's not really about economics, it's about politics,'' Downer said. ``It's the issue of the pace of development. Some countries that are less developed say they don't want to open up their markets, but the only way to be developed is if you open up your own markets and become an attractive destination for investment.''

Asean comprises Malaysia; Indonesia; Thailand; Singapore; Brunei; the Philippines; Cambodia; Laos; Vietnam; and Myanmar -- nations with massive differences in development levels, market access and political structures. Combined, the 12 nations involved in this deal have GDP in excess of $1 trillion. Bloomberg

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