New Zealand and Australian Trade Ministers

  • Hon Damien O'Connor

Hon Damien O’Connor MP, New Zealand Minister for Trade and Export Growth, and Hon Dan Tehan MP, Australian Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, met virtually on Monday 20 September to advance trans-Tasman cooperation under the Australia-New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement (CER).

CER is one of the most comprehensive trade agreements in the world and underpins the integration of the New Zealand and Australian economies. During the COVID-19 pandemic, these open economic settings have benefitted exporters and businesses in both countries, contributing to the economic resilience of New Zealand and Australia. Ministers reiterated the importance of the Single Economic Market agenda between Australia and New Zealand to support shared prosperity for our economies, our businesses, and our communities. As part of this agenda, Ministers discussed recent cooperation on supply chains and progress on a Secure Trade Lane that would maximise efficiencies in low-risk goods trade. Ministers also acknowledged the ongoing work in digital trade and e-commerce, science and innovation, circular economy, and Indigenous business collaboration.

Reflecting the importance of free movement of people between Australia and New Zealand, Ministers highlighted their desire to see further opportunities for travel between Australia and New Zealand as soon as health conditions allow. They reiterated the commitment made by the New Zealand and Australian Prime Ministers’ to work together on re-opening to our Pacific neighbours when it is safe to do so and on systems that would enable a safe reopening to other parts of the world.

Ministers reinforced both countries’ commitment to the multilateral rules-based trading system which provides the predictability and stability necessary to ensure that trade can take place efficiently and with the least friction possible. As demonstrated by the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the benefits this system delivers for our countries are more important than ever. Ministers reiterated their concern over the use of coercive economic practices, and noted the threat these practices pose to the integrity of the multilateral rules-based trading system.

Ministers resolved to work together to support a strong outcome at the WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) that promotes a free, fair, predictable, non-discriminatory, transparent, and open trade and investment environment. New Zealand and Australia will continue to work together, including in the Cairns Group, to advocate for agreement at MC12 on parameters to cap and reduce trade and production distorting agriculture domestic support by at least half by 2030 and to conclude fisheries subsidies negotiations as soon as possible before the Ministerial. Australia and New Zealand are also working together to deliver a strong outcome on trade and health, including a temporary waiver of certain intellectual property protections on COVID-19 vaccines and other WTO trade and health initiatives in response to the pandemic. New Zealand and Australia support work to improve the WTO’s negotiating, monitoring and dispute settlement functions, and strongly support a binding, two tier operational multilateral dispute settlement system. Ministers welcomed progress across the Joint Statement Initiatives launched in Buenos Aires with a view to updating the WTO rule book to be more inclusive and reflect contemporary issues in international trade. They looked forward to delivering new rules on services domestic regulation at MC12 and substantial progress in the e-commerce negotiations.

Ministers welcomed the role Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is playing to uphold the essential role of trade in tackling the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and enabling a strong economic recovery in the region. Ministers reflected on the highly successful Informal Leaders’ Meeting chaired by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in July, which demonstrated the value of APEC as a vehicle for responding to the health and economic crisis. Ministers committed to working together and with APEC members to implement the commitments in the APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade statement, agreed in June 2021, particularly to reduce costs related to vaccines and related goods. Ministers highlighted the role APEC can play in strengthening Indigenous businesses’ access to global markets. Ministers welcomed the good progress being made by the membership, to agree an ambitious plan by the end of the year, for APEC’s contribution to making the region open, dynamic, resilient and peaceful by 2040.

Ministers highlighted the importance of regional trade agreements in providing economic architecture that supports an open, inclusive and prosperous Indo-Pacific region. They highlighted the importance of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership in setting a high standard of rules for trade in the region, and looked forward to Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership signatories completing their ratification processes so that it can enter into force. New Zealand and Australia are committed to working together to upgrade their shared free trade agreement with ASEAN – AANZFTA. They emphasised their determination to ensure that the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) Plus delivers real and practical benefits to the Pacific and supports the recovery of the region from COVID-19.

Ministers recognised the importance of collective and urgent action to address climate change, including pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. Ministers acknowledged the important role of global trade and investment in these efforts, including liberalising trade in environmentally-beneficial goods and services, reducing trade-related costs and barriers to accelerate the global uptake of cost effective low emissions technologies and solutions, and the phase out and reform of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption.

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