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New Zealand is part of a new initiative to create a regional free trade agreement in East Asia Trade Minister Tim Groser announced today.
Mr Groser is in Siem Reap, Cambodia, attending trade meetings hosted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Discussions are underway for negotiations on a new 16-member free trade agreement (FTA) involving the ten members of ASEAN, as well as Australia, China, India, Korea, Japan and New Zealand.
ASEAN has now proposed creating a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) involving all 16 countries.
“For New Zealand, RCEP will build on the FTA which we and Australia concluded with ASEAN in 2009.
“There have been exploratory discussions on a possible regional FTA in East Asia for several years,” Mr Groser says.
Trade Ministers from the 16 countries have agreed to recommend RCEP for consideration by their leaders at a meeting in Cambodia in November.
“This is a bold move to deepen integration in the most dynamic region in the world. It shows that despite the economic difficulties in other parts of the world, Asia is actively pursuing trade liberalisation.
“RCEP has major benefits for New Zealand’s trade ties with some of our top trading partners.
“It complements regional trade initiatives we are taking elsewhere including the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.
“This week’s meeting of the 16 trade ministers is just the first step in a complex undertaking which will take some years to come to fruition. It sends an unmistakeable message about the region’s commitment to working together and to improving market conditions for business.
“New Zealand is pleased to be involved in RCEP and we will be participating actively as the discussions move forward,” Mr Groser says.