By Goh De No
AUSTRALIA’S trade minister Simon Crean welcomed the commencement of
the country’s largest free trade agreement, the Asean-Australia-New
Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA), earlier this week in an
announcement on the ministry’s website. Closer to home, Australia’s
High Commissioner to Brunei is focusing on the broader liberalisation
aspect between the three regions.
Mark Sawers told The Brunei Times yesterday that the historic
agreement, which spans 12 economies with over 600 million people and a
combined GDP of A$3.1 trillion, will lead to modest improvements in
some particular sectors between Brunei and Australia.
“Historically, Brunei has always had a low tariff on Australian
goods, much lower when compared to some other countries. So, I believe
that this will lead to modest improvements between trade,” Sawers said
during a telephone interview yesterday.
He said that the other area they hope to see improve is services and
investments which would lead to a deepening in trade relations.
“For Australia, the Asean region as a whole is bigger than trade
between China or Japan, that’s why from our point of view this is an
important development. With that, I would like to acknowledge Brunei’s
important role as coordinator of the agreement as it was impressively
handled,” the high commissioner said.
Sawers said the FTA’s importance includes an economic element
programme of capacity building and a system of developing trade
capacity in the Asean region, which is the first of its kind.
“Australia and New Zealand would contribute to the regional budget
managed by the Asean Secretariat, designed to help countries like
Cambodia and Indonesia to some extent, in terms of capacity development
(and) trade policy,” Sawers said, adding that this extra element was
not included in previous agreements.
“The commencement of this agreement is a major milestone and opens
up significant opportunities for Australian businesses in one of the
fastest growing regions in the world,” Crean said in a media release on
January 3 when the agreement came into effect. “With Asia leading the
global recovery and six out of ten Asean markets expected to grow at
rates at least double the forecast OECD average in 2010, there is great
potential for Australian exporters to enter new markets.”
“This agreement is also an important building block towards
deepening Australia’s economic integration with the dynamic Asian
region. As of today, the agreement covers around 70 per cent of
Australia’s trade with Asean countries with which we do not have
bilateral FTAs,” Crean said.
By 2020, the deal will eliminate tariffs on 96 per cent of
Australia’s current exports to Asean nations, Crean added. Asean
accounted for 15 per cent of Australia’s trade, valued at A$83 billion
($108 billion) in 2008-2009. This is as large as Australia’s trade with
China, Australia’s largest trading partner. AANZFTA is Australia’s
first multi-country FTA and the most comprehensive FTA ever concluded
In addition to Australia and New Zealand, AANZFTA has entered into
force for the following ASEAN countries: Brunei, Burma, Malaysia, the
Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam. Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos and
Thailand are expected to ratify the agreement in the early part of this
“I urge the Australian business community to take full advantage of
the many benefits that this far-reaching agreement has to offer,” Crean