Fri, 11 Feb 2000

ASEAN may expand AFTA

JAKARTA (JP): Representatives of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Australia and New Zealand have met to explore the possibility of establishing a free trade zone.

The ASEAN Secretariat said the representatives discussed on Wednesday the potential benefits and costs of linking the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) with the Australia-New Zealand Closer Economic Relations (CER) to form a single free trade zone.

According to a study conducted by the Canberra-based Center for International Economics, the AFTA-CER linkage would create a market of 523 million people with a combined gross domestic product of US$1.2 trillion.

ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Australia was represented by Tim Fischer, a member of the Australian Parliament, and New Zealand was represented by William Birch. The meeting was chaired by former Philippine prime minister Cesar Virata.

The representatives agreed to meet again on April 27 and April 28 in New Zealand.(hen)