Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham, Australian Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment and Hon David Parker MP, New Zealand Minister for Trade and Export Growth, met virtually on Thursday 23 July to conduct annual Closer Economic Relations discussions between two of the world’s most integrated economies.
The bilateral relationship between Australia and New Zealand is uniquely close, and has a long and proven history that has served both countries well. Standing together in these unprecedented and uncertain times is crucial as both countries continue to navigate the health and economic challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Both ministers reinforced Australia and New Zealand’s proud history – and ongoing efforts – in promoting and defending trade and investment liberalisation and confronting protectionism. As the impacts of COVID-19 threaten global supply chains, Ministers resolved to identify concrete action to alleviate the impact of COVID-19 on essential supplies. Ministers also committed to strengthening bilateral cooperation to reinforce the rules-based global trading system, and to explore the scope for WTO Members to cooperate in unwinding trade distorting measures that have been implemented since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to agree on new ways to minimise any adverse impacts from trade measures in future health emergencies, for the benefit of both countries and economies around the world.
Ministers Parker and Birmingham reiterated the call by the Australian and New Zealand Prime Ministers at their February 2020 meeting reaffirming the role of the Single Economic Market (SEM) agenda and the Closer Economic Relations (CER) agreement in driving prosperity in both countries. Ministers recognised the importance of progressing the cross-recognition of digital identities and mutual recognition of business numbers (ABN and NZBN) across the Tasman. They reiterated the importance of initiatives that improve the trans-Tasman operating environment for small business in particular, given the importance of each market to the other’s small exporting businesses.
Ministers reaffirmed that Australia and New Zealand are committed to introducing a trans-Tasman safe travel zone as soon as it is safe to do so. They noted this will be a positive step for both economies and for the people of both countries. Australia and New Zealand are vital export markets for each other, and a travel zone will also enhance sporting and cultural connections, and reunite family and friends across the Tasman. Ministers praised officials of both countries for working hard to progress the wide range of areas that need agreement for a safe travel zone to be established, to allow travellers and businesses to travel with confidence between Australia and New Zealand.
Ministers resolved to continue to work together, and with global and regional partners, to reform the World Trade Organization, to ensure it continues to serve the interests of all WTO Members during the recovery and beyond.
They committed to work together to take forward initiatives of the Cairns Group, including the COVID-19 Food Security Initiative and the Framework for Negotiations on Domestic Support. They reinforced the urgent need to conclude fisheries subsidies negotiations before the end of 2020, in line with Leaders’ instructions and to give effect to Sustainable Development Goal 14.6. They also emphasised the need to find a timely path through the current Appellate Body impasse, in order to preserve and strengthen the WTO’s binding dispute settlement system. Further, Ministers Parker and Birmingham also highlighted the importance of the appointment process currently under way to select the next WTO Director-General.
Noting the contribution APEC can make to drive the Asia-Pacific region’s economic recovery, Ministers looked forward to working together with Malaysia as 2020 Chair and other economies on the post 2020 vision for APEC’s future. They discussed New Zealand’s chairing role in 2021, and agreed to collaborate closely in APEC to support a dynamic Asia-Pacific, built on open trade and market-oriented policies.
Ministers noted the opportunities as well as challenges for producers and exporters of both countries as negotiations of new free trade agreements with the United Kingdom commenced and those with the EU continued.
Ministers welcomed the ratification of PACER Plus by five Pacific signatories, in addition to New Zealand and Australia, and committed to secure the one further ratification needed to bring PACER Plus into force.