March 1, 2009

ASEAN, Australia sign free trade pact

Southeast Asian nations along with Australia and New Zealand have concluded a landmark free-trade agreement in Thailand, participants say.

Canberra, Wellington and the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian countries Sunday signed the ASEAN, Australia, New Zealand Free Trade Agreement, which could be worth more than $40 billion for the Australian economy over 20 years, the Malaysian news agency Bernama reported.

The 10 ASEAN nations include Brunei, Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam, all of whom stand to see their bilateral trade with Australia and New Zealand increase under the deal, officials said.

The new trade deal came along with calls at the ASEAN Summit in Hua Hin, Thailand, to work together to cope with the global financial crisis and to avoid protectionism.

We have learned from our previous experience and we are ready to act together, Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi told reporters at the end of the two-day summit, adding the ASEAN partners are single-minded against protectionism and will call to accounts to any member state that engages in it.