The Business Council of Australia has welcomed the signing of the free trade agreement (FTA) between the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), Australia and New Zealand.
BCA Global Engagement Task Force Chairman and Corrs CEO John Denton said the FTA would open up opportunities for Australian businesses and provide valuable economic benefits for the people of all nations that are signatories to the agreement.
“We are pleased that governments have made commitments to reduce barriers to trade in goods and services, and to improve the rules relating to investment and government procurement,” Mr Denton said.
“The FTA also delivers important new arrangements concerning the movement of people for commercial purposes. We welcome the commitments made to extend temporary business entry arrangements for people engaged in the supply and sale of goods and services as well as for investment purposes.
Mr Denton said business supported the recognition given to investment in the FTA, including the agreement on arrangements for investment protections which provide a mechanism to resolve investor-state disputes.
“The FTA is strategically important for Australia and New Zealand in light of the emerging trade and investment opportunities for businesses across South East Asia.
“The priority given to economic cooperation, including the implementation arrangements for the agreement, will contribute to strengthening our relationships in the wider region.
“Furthermore, the signing of the ASEAN–Australia–New Zealand FTA is taking place at an important time given the difficulties of the economic downturn. Governments, in cooperation with business and industry, need to continue the work of opening up economies to trade and investment.
“The BCA recognises that free trade agreements are no substitute for reducing barriers to trade and investment through the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the multilateral trading system. Both governments and business must continue to press for the Doha round to be concluded and a new agenda for the WTO.
“Nevertheless, the agreement will open up new commercial opportunities between Australia, New Zealand and South East Asian nations, and these will help provide a better basis for economic growth beyond the current global financial crisis”, Mr Denton said.