Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Ministerial talks in Adelaide mark 40th anniversary of CER agreement

Australian Minister for Trade and Tourism, Don Farrell, hosted Minister for Trade and Export Growth, Damien O’Connor, in Adelaide on Friday to mark the 40th anniversary of the Australia-New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement and advance the next stage of collaboration across the Tasman under the agreement.

In a joint statement, the Minister said, “Australia and New Zealand are family, with close bonds built through history, geography and our enduring partnership”.

The Ministers acknowledged that this year marks a number of important anniversaries for the trans-Tasman relationship across trade, travel and diplomacy, and noted that the meeting came as Australia and New Zealand made history as the first countries to co-host the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

“These milestones are a testament to our shared history and the way our relationship continues to evolve,” they said.

Ministers welcomed the Trans-Tasman Roadmap to 2035, endorsed by Prime Ministers at their annual meeting in Wellington on 26 July, as a reflection of the two nations’ shared ambition to work collaboratively towards modern, inclusive economies; a peaceful, stable, prosperous and resilient region; and an international system guided by international law and robust institutions.

“Our strong bilateral partnership and shared values are a valuable asset we can leverage to support our transition to low-emission, climate-resilient economies, champion inclusive trade, and encourage sustainable trade and investment in the Pacific. A robust, agile and collaborative trade and economic relationship across the Tasman can also support our security and resilience goals, as set out in the Roadmap.”

The Ministers acknowledged the significance of 40 years of the CER Agreement as one of the most comprehensive bilateral free trade agreements in existence. They celebrated the benefits this agreement has brought to both sides of the Tasman, leading to substantively greater trade and investment flows: 8% year on year growth in two‑way merchandise trade since it came into force, and facilitating hundreds of billions in two‑way investment.

“The CER Agreement has consistently reduced barriers to trade and investment, supported greater harmonisation, and minimised market distortions. It has opened new areas for collaboration throughout the decades, as reflected in the more than 80 supplementary government-to-government bilateral treaties, protocols and other arrangements that sit under it,” the Minister said.

They agreed the CER needs to remain a world-leading agreement and a key driver of growth, business opportunities and jobs.

The Ministers signed the Australia-New Zealand Sustainable and Inclusive Trade Declaration, in line with commitments made by Prime Ministers in Wellington, at their annual Leaders Meeting.

“This Declaration enhances our trade relationship under CER. It amplifies  the strong commitment, in this anniversary year, to working collaboratively to support rules-based international trade in pursuit of more modern, resilient and sustainable economies.”

“Equally, it underlines the dedication our countries share to ensuring the international trading system and our bilateral economic arrangements are equipped to confront the challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution, and deliver prosperity for all our people.

“Importantly, it shows the alignment our trade goals with efforts to combat climate change, a key feature of our respective transitions to net-zero and the trajectories required to stay within a 1.5 degree temperature rise limit.”

The Ministers also welcomed ongoing work by officials to progress the Australia Aotearoa New Zealand Indigenous Collaboration Arrangement (ICA), which seeks to deepen economic, cultural and people-to-people relationships among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Māori communities, businesses and organisations.

In the 50th year of the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement, the Ministers noted the strong connections forged through travel, tourism and family links across the Tasman. They welcomed the new direct pathway to Australian citizenship for New Zealand citizens, which commenced on 1 July.

They also acknowledged the Prime Ministers’ commitment at their annual Leaders Meeting on 26 July, to revitalising a Trans-Tasman working group on seamless travel between Australia and New Zealand, which will report back by end of June 2024.

Ministers noted that Prime Ministers expressed their support for a review and modernisation of the Single Economic market (SEM) agenda and agreed that officials should continue their work to ensure the SEM is fit for purpose in the modern context, remains responsive to new opportunities and challenges, and continues facilitating regulatory alignment and greater economic integration. This will include implementing the Sustainable, Inclusive and Prosperous Economies pillar of the Trans-Tasman Roadmap to 2035, agreed to by Prime Ministers. 

The Ministers were pleased to note Australia’s decision to join the Inclusive Trade Action Group (ITAG) and Global Trade and Gender Arrangement (GTAGA), of which New Zealand is a founding member.

“It is a further sign of our commitment to working with like-minded partners in our region and beyond, to advance and promote sustainable  and inclusive areas of trade including reinforcing environment and climate change goals, promote gender equality and women’s economic empowerment, upholding labour rights and Indigenous trade and opportunities for SMEs and regional economic development,” they said.

They discussed the impact of the current geostrategic environment on the global trading system and economic security, and reaffirmed their commitment to promoting open, diversified, rules-based trade, including through support for efforts to reform and strengthen the multilateral trading system, with the WTO at its core.   

Minister Farrell commended New Zealand’s efforts as this year’s Chair of CPTPP.

Both Ministers welcomed the United Kingdom’s recent accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). They reiterated a commitment to maintaining, through the general review and any future accessions, a high-level agreement that supports an open, inclusive and prosperous region embedded within the rules-based global trading system.

“Australia and New Zealand continue to work closely together to support negotiations on the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF).”

The Ministers emphasised the importance of tangible outcomes on IPEF to support a prosperous, resilient, and inclusive Indo-Pacific region. 

Both said they looked forward to signing the upgraded Agreement Establishing the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA) in Indonesia, later his month.

“The upgrade will ensure AANZFTA remains fit-for-purpose, strengthening our cooperation and economic architecture in the Indo-Pacific.”

They also reiterated Australia and New Zealand’s commitment to working with fellow PACER Plus partners to deepen economic integration and resilience across the Pacific and facilitate opportunities through international trade; and were also pleased to note the growing flows of tourism from Australia and New Zealand into the broader Pacific region following the re-opening of international borders.

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