The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) said Sunday that negotiations to update the Agreement on the Establishment of the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA) have reached a “substantial conclusion”.
“AANZFTA is not only the first region-to-area free trade agreement for both ASEAN and CER (Australia and New Zealand) but also remains ASEAN’s most ambitious individual project since it embarked on an outward-looking economic system aimed at integrating ASEAN countries,” declared a joint statement issued at the end of The annual summit of the regional bloc that member states, individually and collectively, in the global economy.
ASEAN consists of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Timur is not in line to become the 11th member, having been granted observer status last week.
Meanwhile, CER refers to the Free Trade Agreement on Closer Economic Relations signed by Australia and New Zealand in 1983.
Following the recent talks, the ministers were tasked with working on signing a second protocol next year to amend an earlier agreement to create the free trade zone.
Upgrade negotiations began in September 2020, and the first negotiating meeting took place in April last year even as the world was struggling to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The substantive conclusion of the upgrade negotiations, even as the region continues to grapple with the effects of the pandemic, and multiple regional and global challenges, is a testament to the AANZFTA parties’ resolve to accelerate post-pandemic economic recovery…,” the joint statement said.
Among other things, new chapters on government procurement, SMEs, trade and sustainable development have been included.
“The upgraded AANZFTA will, among other benefits, accelerate supply chain integration and resilience; ensure the smooth flow of essential commodities during periods of crisis; deepen services and liberalize investment; and support e-commerce and digital transformation,” the joint statement read.