Asia bloc ‘may become free trade by 2020’
embryonic Asian regional bloc could develop by 2020 into a “free
trade area” stretching from India to New Zealand, according
to the Australian government.
16-member East Asian community, designed to foster closer links
among countries in Asia and the Pacific, will hold its inaugural
summit meeting in Malaysia in December.
Downer, the Australian foreign minister who successfully lobbied
for his country’s inclusion, said it was possible that the
community could develop over the long term into a trade area stretching
“from Mumbai to Christchurch”.
community will consist of the 10 Association of South East Asian
Nations members plus Japan, China, South Korea, India, Australia
and New Zealand and cover about half of the world’s population.
to the Financial Times in London this week, Mr Downer said: “The
countries have a lot do with each other and increased co-operation
can build practical outcomes on issues such as counter terrorism
and avian flu. Over the longer term it could become a large free
a trade area is not a policy goal for Canberra, it is known to be
frustrated by the lack of progress on the reduction of global trade
barriers in areas such as agriculture.
has signed a number of bilateral trade agreements with neighbouring
countries and has opened negotiations with China for a wide-ranging
trade deal. Officials in Canberra are pessimistic that progress
can be made on the Doha trade round at a ministerial meeting in
Hong Kong in December. This week Australia rebuked the European
Union for planning to offload 2m tonnes of surplus sugar on to the
world market, in spite of a WTO ruling that such exports are illegal.
Peter Mandelson, EU trade commissioner, said yesterday the EU was
prepared to cut import tariffs on its highly protected farm sector
if the US reformed its agricultural subsidies. Speaking during a
joint visit to Washington with Mariann Fischer Boel, agriculture
commissioner, he said a transatlantic agreement was vital in pushing
forward the Doha round.
Sundeep Tucker in London and Alan Beattie in Washington
(Financial Times, 14 September 2005)
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