Gas Week

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APEC-wide free trade agreement a good idea for future, especially if Doha fails, says Aus Trade Minister

Posted by gasweek on 26 September, 2007

Existing free-trade agreements in the Asia-Pacific region could form the basis of an Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation group-wide free-trade area, said Trade Minister Warren Truss on the eve of a new report on the feasibility of merging existing FTAs, reported The Australian Financial Review (3/9/2007, p.7).

Idea for the future: Truss said expanding or merging existing FTAs was a less ambitious but potentially more achievable option than negotiating an FTA from scratch. “The idea of an APEC-wide trading agreement may well be a step too far at the present time but these [FTA mergers] could well be useful building blocs towards a broader free-trade agenda,” Truss said. Creating a free-trade area by merging existing FTAs would fall short of proposals for a new APEC-wide FTA but go beyond the current state of multiple, often conflicting, FTAs in the region.

Especially if Doha fails: Australia’s APEC ambassador, David Spencer, has suggested that FTAs that could be expanded included the P4 pact between New Zealand, Brunei, Chile and Singapore; the North American one between the US, Canada and Mexico; and the agreement being negotiated between Australia, New Zealand and the Association of South-East Asian Nations. “It’s another possibility – it’s a little less ambitious [than negotiating a new APEC-wide FTA] but therefore maybe more achievable,” said Truss. The notion of an APEC-wide FTA was considered a long-term option by member countries – particularly if the World Trade Organisation’s Doha round of talks failed altogether.

The Australian Financial Review, 3/9/2007, p. 7

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