Asean, Pacific partners may rejig pact

Asean, Pacific partners may rejig pact

Asean, Australia and New Zealand are looking to revamp the Asean-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA) which has been in force for a decade to help revitalise trade and investment in the bloc after Covid-19.

Auramon Supthaweethum, director-general of the Trade Negotiations Department, who participated in the 12th meeting of the joint commission on AANZFTA via teleconference late last month, said the meeting considered upgrading the pact to align it with the changing trade situation especially on issues about non-tariff measures (NTMs), the rules of origin, certification of origin, self-certification, customs procedures and trade facilitation, trade in services and investment (e-commerce, telecommunication and financial services), state procurement, trade competition, consumer protection, sustainable trade and development.

The meeting aimed to decide on changing the pact by 2022.

AANZFTA is Australia's first multi-country FTA and the first time Australia and New Zealand have been involved in negotiating an FTA with third countries. It is also the first time Asean has embarked on FTA negotiations covering all sectors, including goods, services, investment and intellectual property.

The AANZFTA came into force on Jan 1, 2010.

According to Ms Auramon, the meeting also discussed the renewal of financial support by Australia and New Zealand through an economic cooperation programme set to end late this year.

In 2020, Australia and New Zealand offered about 1.058 billion baht to develop the country members' capability under the AANZFTA's requirements.

The meeting also acknowledged Chile's interest in joining AANZFTA. However, she said AANZFTA has no procedure to enlist new members, adding that members would discuss Chile's proposal later.

Ms Auramon said AANZFTA plays a significant role in growing trade and investment in the region. Australia and New Zealand have eliminated import tariffs on almost all Asean products while Thailand has annulled import tariffs on 98% of products from Australia and New Zealand. Two-way trade between Asean, Australia and New Zealand has grown by 48.79% from US$49.35 billion in 2009 to $73.43 billion in 2019.

The Commerce Ministry says Thailand's exports to Australia and New Zealand hit $3.43 billion in the first quarter of this year, a rise of 21.57% from the same period last year. Key export products included transportation vehicles, processed tuna, air-conditioners, aluminium sheet and polyethylene.

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