Council of Ministers OKs FTA With Australia and NZ

The Council of Ministers ap­proved the Asean-Australia and New Zealand free-trade agreement on Fri­day, according to a government statement released Friday.

The free-trade agreement, which was provisionally signed at the 13th Asean summit in Thailand in February 2009, came into effect on Jan 1 for member states that had already ratified the deal, according to the Council of Ministers’ statement.

In Cambodia, the agreement must now receive approval from the National Assembly, the Senate and King Norodom Sihamoni before it is ratified. Lawmakers from the CPP and SRP said yesterday that they could not comment on the free-trade agreement, as they had not yet studied its contents.

Cheam Yeap, chairman of the National Assembly’s banking and finance committee, said he had not seen the agreement yet, but added that Australia and New Zealand should be included in Asean trade as they were located close to the region.

“We should have goods from Asean put on sale in the Australian and New Zealand markets,” Mr Yeap said.

An unattributed statement, sent last month by e-mail from the media liaison section of the Aus­tralia’s De­par­t­ment of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said two-way trade between Australia and Cambodia was worth $54 million during the Australian 2008-09 financial year.

The DFAT statement added that a high percentage of Cambodia’s exports to Australia are textiles and clothing, and that Australia eliminated tariffs on most of these Cambo­dian exports as part of the free-trade agreement from Jan 1.

“It is difficult to determine which Australian or Cambodian industries will actually make use of the agreement,” the statement said. “However, the sheer size of the market covered by the FTA, when combined with the FTA’s truly liberalizing outcome, suggests that AANZFTA should have a positive effect on trade flows between the Parties.”

According to the requirements of the free-trade agreement, the deal will not enter into force for Cambodia until 60 days after the government notifies the other member parties that it has completed its formal ratification process.

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