February 8, 2006

Australia-NZ leaders push for single market

By James Grubel

CANBERRA (Reuters) - Australia and New Zealand vowed to
work to build a single economic market on the back of
strengthening trade ties on Wednesday, but stopped short of
endorsing a single currency.

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said both countries
wanted to build on the 23-year-old Closer Economic Relations
(CER) agreement, which has freed up trade between the

But Clark and Australian Prime Minister John Howard said
there were no plans for a single trans-Tasman currency, saying
it was important for both countries to maintain their economic

"We are two sovereign, independent, close, friendly
countries, but we are separate countries," Howard told a joint
news conference after talks with Clark in Canberra, adding that
to give up control of the currency would be a big step.

Trade between Australia and New Zealand was worth A$14.5
billion ($10.7 billion) in the 2004/05 financial year, up 10
percent on the previous year. Australia accounts for 22 percent
of New Zealand's imports, and 21 percent of its exports.

Clark said while the CER was one of the world's most
comprehensive free trade agreements, Australia and New Zealand
wanted to go further, adding an investment chapter and
cooperating more on banking regulation and business law.

"Both our governments have looked far beyond CER to the
development of a single economic market, with the goal of
enabling seamless business activity across our borders," Clark

Australia and New Zealand have enjoyed an historically
strong bilateral relationship since Australian and New Zealand
forces fought together under the ANZAC banner at Gallipoli in
Turkey in 1915.

Both countries have forces in Afghanistan and the Solomon
Islands, and both are signatories to the three-nation ANZUS
security alliance with the United States, although New Zealand
has been suspended from the pact since its 1986 decision to ban
visits by nuclear-powered or armed ships.

Australia and New Zealand are also in joint free trade
talks with the 10 members of the Association of South East
Asian Nations (ASEAN).

($1=A$1.35) ($1=NZ$1.47)