Australian and New Zealand Ministers met in Sydney on 27 November 2013 for the annual Closer Economic Relations (CER) Ministerial Meeting. The meeting provides ministerial oversight of the Australia New Zealand CER Trade Agreement, which continues to deliver new benefits to business, investors and consumers and which is recognised as one of the world’s most comprehensive free trade agreements. The meeting is a driving force for continued bilateral economic integration, finding ways to streamline regulations, lower business costs and ease the movement of people and products. Further, it provides an important forum for discussion on multilateral and regional trade liberalisation, which underpins the continued prosperity, competitiveness and economic growth of both countries.
Australia’s delegation was led by the Minister for Trade and Investment, the Hon Andrew Robb AO MP, who was joined by the Assistant Treasurer, Senator the Hon Arthur Sinodinos AO. New Zealand’s delegation comprised the Minister of Trade, Hon Tim Groser, Hon Steven Joyce, Minister for Economic Development, and Hon Craig Foss, Minister of Commerce.
The importance of the economic relationship between Australia and New Zealand is reflected in trade and investment levels. Two-way goods and services trade between Australia and New Zealand was A$21.3 billion in 2012. The tourism market is a vital part of the services trade; in the year to June 2013 1.2 million Australians visited New Zealand, and one million New Zealanders visited Australia. We are also close investment partners – Australia has A$77.5 billion invested in New Zealand, and New Zealand has A$28 billion invested in Australia.
Marking the 30th anniversary of the CER Agreement this year, Ministers acknowledged the CER Agreement as the cornerstone of the trade and economic relationship. The CER and the Single Economic Market agenda have brought down barriers to trade, reduced costs for business and encouraged investment, creating jobs in both Australia and New Zealand. Over thirty years the CER has also promoted economic reform in both countries and helped prepare both economies for the modern globalised world, including supporting our integration into regional and global value chains.
Expertise Australia and New Zealand have developed in successfully opening markets and liberalising trade, through both the CER Agreement and the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA), is sought after in the region and is an asset both nations can draw on to grow their economic engagement with Asia. In this context Ministers welcomed the third successful ASEAN-CER Integration Partnership Forum held in Cairns in June 2013, which shared Australian and New Zealand experience in addressing competition policy issues.
Ministers welcomed the achievements of the Trans-Tasman Outcomes Implementation Group in advancing the Single Economic Market agenda. The Single Economic Market aims to enable business, consumers and investors to conduct operations across the Tasman in a seamless regulatory environment. Ministers noted that the majority of outcomes, including all the financial reporting policy and consumer policy outcomes, have been completed, and most of the remaining outcomes are expected to be completed by the end of 2014. Financial advisers in Australia and New Zealand are now able to operate across the Tasman without the need for further approvals, and we have made significant steps towards harmonising product labelling regimes. These advances make it easier for small businesses to market their products and services in both countries. Ministers agreed on the need to continue the dialogue and to broaden the focus to initiatives that would further assist business to operate more easily across the Tasman, instructing our officials to work closely with industry in developing options for renewing the Single Economic Market agenda, reporting back to Ministers at the next CER Ministerial Meeting in 2014.
Ministers welcomed the joint Australia-New Zealand Productivity Commissions report into ‘Strengthening trans-Tasman economic relations’ which identified over 30 initiatives to boost productivity, improve competitiveness and drive deeper trans-Tasman economic integration. Ministers noted the work by both governments to develop a joint response to the report, which is expected to be released by Prime Ministers at or around the next Leaders’ meeting in 2014.
Ministers welcomed progress in 2013 on a number of initiatives in support of trans-Tasman cooperation and integration including:
- the entry into force in March 2013 of the CER Investment Protocol, which reduces compliance costs and provides greater legal certainty for trans-Tasman investors;
- the establishment on 1 July 2013 of a retirement savings portability scheme which allows retirees moving across the Tasman to take their savings with them;
- progress towards a single trans-Tasman patent attorney regime which will help innovators market their products and services more readily in both markets by reducing administration costs and making it simpler to apply for intellectual property rights in Australia and New Zealand;
- new arrangements that will make it simpler and cheaper to conduct court cases and enforce civil court judgements across the Tasman; and
- the good progress made toward establishing a joint Australia and New Zealand scheme and agency to regulate therapeutic goods, aimed at harmonising regulations and creating a more favourable climate for trans-Tasman businesses.
Ministers affirmed the importance of open flows of goods, services and capital and the need to strongly resist protectionism. In this regard Ministers agreed to encourage further trade liberalisation and reform, including through the World Trade Organization (WTO), Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum and other international forums. Ministers called on WTO Members to make every effort to deliver a meaningful package of outcomes from the Bali Ministerial Meeting. Ministers also agreed to cooperate closely in negotiating arrangements for the elimination of tariffs and other barriers to regional trade and investment through comprehensive, high-quality agreements such as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
Ministers welcomed the substantial progress achieved in the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) Plus negotiations since early 2012 and the positive outlook for more progress. Ministers welcomed the significant long term opportunity PACER Plus provides to deepen regional trade and economic integration and thereby help to create jobs, enhance private sector growth and raise living standards in Forum Island countries.
Ministers agreed that Australia and New Zealand would increase their funding to the Office of the Chief Trade Adviser (OCTA). This funding will allow the OCTA to continue its role of providing independent advice and assistance to Pacific Island countries involved in the PACER Plus negotiations.
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