Thursday, 21 November 2002 - MVT152/2002
Good Progress in Free Trade Negotiations with Thailand
Australia and Thailand have agreed to step up the pace of negotiations
in a bid to complete a Closer Economic Relations Free Trade Agreement
by June 2004, Trade Minister Mark Vaile announced today.
Mr Vaile and Thai Commerce Minister Dr Adisai Bodharamik agreed to
the mid-2004 target date for completion of a CER-FTA following a meeting
on 16 November.
In a Joint Statement both Ministers welcomed the
progress made in the negotiating sessions held to date and made it
clear that they were committed to concluding a comprehensive free
trade agreement as quickly as possible.
"Setting a target date of mid-2004 for the completion of negotiations
signals our determination to move forward quickly and decisively,"
Mr Vaile said.
"The ultimate aim of the negotiations is the elimination of tariffs
and other barriers to trade and investment with Thailand. This would
be a major boost for the competitive outlook for Australian firms
with interests in the Thai market and one that would open up a wide
range of new commercial opportunities."
The Ministers also agreed to an 'early harvest' action plan. Both
sides have agreed to give priority to starting and accelerating work
in a number of areas. These include negotiations on investment protection
and promotion, examination of the scope for mutual recognition arrangements
in selected areas and strengthened cooperation in the area of competition
"This package demonstrates that both governments are committed to
achieving a comprehensive and trade-liberalising agreement that will
strengthen commercial and business relations between our countries,"
Mr Vaile said.
"The Joint Statement agreed to by Dr Adisai and myself is a good
first step and I am looking forward to building on it in working towards
an ambitious final negotiated package."
Media Contact: Robyn Bain +61 02 6277 7420
Mr Mark Vaile, Minister for Trade, Australia
Dr Adisai Bodharamik, Minister of Commerce, Thailand
PROGRESS IN NEGOTIATIONS FOR AN AUSTRALIA-THAILAND
CLOSER ECONOMIC RELATIONS FREE TRADE AGREEMENT
At their meetingin Sydney on 16 November, Mr Mark Vaile, Minister
of Trade of Australia and Dr Adisai Bodharamik, Minister of Commerce
of Thailand, exchanged views on the progress of the negotiations between
Australia and Thailand for aCloser Economic Relations Free Trade Agreement
The Ministers welcomed the progress made in the two negotiating rounds
held to date which have focussed on modalities for the elimination
of tariffs and non-tariff barriers on trade in goods and for the liberalization
of trade in services, and an "early harvest" package including negotiations
of provisions on investment promotion and protection and a variety
of cooperative activities.
The Ministers reiterated thecommitment by both governments to securing
as soon as possible a comprehensive agreement that would strengthen
commercial and business relations between Australia and Thailand.
The Ministers also recalled the existing agreements on economic and
development cooperation between the two countries.
The Ministers expressed their hope that the business communities
and other groups in both countries with an interest in the trade and
investment relationship would continue to support strongly the successful
conclusion of the negotiations.
The Ministers recalled that, when the negotiations were launched
on 30 May 2002, Prime Minister Howard and Prime Minister Thaksin referred
to the desirability of announcing results in individual sectors as
In this regard, the Ministers announced the following "early harvest"
package of cooperative trade-related activities. They agreed that
work in these areas would commence in January 2003 and would be carried
forward promptly with the aim of supporting and facilitating the early
conclusion and implementation of the CER-FTA:
- enhanced consultations on sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) issues;
- negotiations of provisions on investment promotion and protection;
- cooperation and capacity-building with regard to competition policy;
- mutual recognition arrangements (MRAs);
- promotion of e-commerce;
- cooperation on sustainable tourism development; and
- enhanced cooperation on educational services.
The Ministers agreed to make their best efforts to conclude by June
2004 a balanced and mutually acceptable CER-FTA that liberalized and
facilitated trade in goods and services and investment in a way that
was consistent with the provisions of the WTO Agreement.
They also agreed to reinforce cooperation in other trade-related
areas of mutual interest such as customs facilitation and cooperation,
intellectual property rights and information and communication technology.
The Ministers instructed their officials to intensify their efforts.
They undertook to maintain close contact as the negotiations moved
forward and agreed to meet in the second half of 2003 to review the
progress and issue further instructions to their negotiators.
Australia-Thailand Closer Economic Relations Free
Trade Agreement (CER-FTA)
State of play in the negotiations
Two rounds of negotiations have been held to date, in August and
October. The first round focussed on defining the objectives
of the negotiations and the key principles, and on determining the
range of issues to be covered by the agreement. The first negotiating
meeting also established expert groups in the areas of rules of origin,
investment and standards, which have been charged with taking forward
the detailed technical work in these areas.
The main focus of the second negotiating session was a discussion
of options for eliminating tariffs and non-tariff barriers and liberalising
trade in services. These are the key elements of the negotiations
from Australia's perspective (Thailand has an average tariff of
around 18%) and will be at the centre of the negotiating process.
Exchanges on tariff elimination options are expected to move to an
intensive phase at the next negotiating session (scheduled for early
2003). The second negotiating session also involved more detailed
discussions on the coverage of the agreement, and preliminary exchanges
were held on a number of other issues, including possible commitments
in the area of government procurement and an approach to liberalisation
and enhanced cooperation in the information and communication technology
Australia's aim is to secure an agreement that eliminates tariffs
and non-tariff barriers on goods and services and liberalises the
investment regime. The Government is determined to achieve an ambitious
agreement even if this takes a little longer. This is fully in
line with the Government's policy on free trade agreements (FTAs),
specifically that it favours pursuing such agreements if there are
clear commercial and trade policy benefits and if better results can
be secured more quickly than is possible in the WTO negotiations.
Economic modelling suggests the CER-FTA would boost both countries'
GDP because of the stimulus to trade, investment and competitiveness
that such an agreement would bring. The key benefit for Australian
companies would be from substantially improved access to the Thai
market in a wide range of areas. Australian services exporters and
investors would also stand to benefit from a more liberalised, transparent
and predictable regulatory climate in Thailand.
Joint Ministerial Statement
The Joint Statement agreed by Mr Vaile and the Thai Commerce Minister
Dr Adisai Bodharamik on 16 November confirms that the core of the
CER-FTA will be the elimination of tariffs and non-tariff barriers
on trade in goods, provisions for the liberalisation of trade in services
and two-way investment as well as a range of cooperative activities
in areas of mutual interest. Overall, the CER-FTA will be aimed at
developing economic integration between Australia and Thailand.
The Joint Statement includes a mid-2004 target for the completion
of the negotiations.
"Early harvest" activities
Stemming from comments made by the two Prime Ministers when they
launched the negotiations in May 2002, the Joint Statement also reflects
an agreement between the two countries to give priority to starting
and accelerating work in a number of areas. The key areas of
interest for Australia are negotiations on investment protection
and promotion, the examination of mutual recognition arrangements
in sectors of high priority to Australian exporters and the strengthened
cooperation in the area of competition policy.
The reference to sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) consultations reflects
the fact that Australia has maintained a constructive dialogue with
Thailand on quarantine issues and is prepared to continue that process
which is focussed on identifying ways in which Thailand could improve
its systems to a level comparable with Australia's. Australia has
made it clear that it maintains a science-based, non-discriminatory
approach to decision-making in the area of quarantine and that
the Australian Government is not prepared to countenance any weakening
of its quarantine standards.
Australia is prepared to keep an open mind on the possibility of
future early announceables from the negotiations if such outcomes
would contribute positively to the goal of an ambitious and comprehensive
agreement. Australia believes that maintaining a single package
of commitments on goods, services and investment liberalisation will
maximise the prospects of a substantial trade-liberalising outcome.
Tuesday, 07-Jan-2014 10:00:25 EST