ASEAN economic ministers sign FTA with Australia and New Zealand
Manila (5 March) -- Economic ministers of the 10-member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) signed a free trade agreement (FTA) with Australia and New Zealand to increase the ASEAN member countries' respective gross domestic products by $48-billion over the next 20 years.
Trade Secretary Peter Favila, who represented the Philippines in the economic ministers meeting held here Friday morning said, earlier ASEAN leaders, realizing the importance of this FTA, have directed their respective economic ministers to have the particulars of the accord "completed, concluded and signed" during this year's ASEAN Summit.
"The FTA is a comprehensive single undertaking which covers services, goods, investments and economic cooperation (between ASEAN, Australia and New Zealand)," Favila said during an interview at the Dusit Hotel here.
"This (FTA) aims to liberalize and, progressively at that, strengthen trading rules among the parties with substantial sectoral coverage and likewise establish a cooperative framework for strengthening, diversifying and enhancing our trade investments and economic links among ASEAN members, Australia and New Zealand," he added.
Favila pointed out that the FTA would benefit all parties who are signatories to the accord.
"This is evident in the increases in trade volumes and in certifications in processes and procedures like custom procedures," Favila said.
For his part, Australian Trade Minister Simon Crean hailed the signing of the agreement as one of the largest trade arrangements that would help the region overcome and surpass the economic crunch sweeping the world.
"This is an extremely strong signal to the rest of the world that the Asian region remains committed to pursuing economic growth, exports and jobs to help drive the economic recovery," Crean said.
Crean said that based on recent studies in Canberra, the agreement would add some $48-billion to the gross domestic product of each ASEAN member-country, Australia and New Zealand over the next 20 years.
New Zealand Trade Minister Tom Groser, meanwhile, said trade figures could double with the implementation of the free trade pact.
"Putting together the 12 economies with existing gross domestic product of $1.2-trillion, the FTA with ASEAN is very significant in terms of political and commercial development," Groser said. (ASEANsec/PIA) [top]