Prime Minister Kevin Rudd today (3 March 2009) released a joint statement with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key on strengthened trans-Tasman cooperation. The Prime Ministers met in Sydney on 1-2 March to hold their annual talks which focussed primarily on the global economic crisis and ways to strengthen the trans-Tasman relationship.
Global Economic Crisis
The major focus of discussions between the Prime Ministers was the global economic crisis, who noted that the IMF forecasts global growth to slow to ½ per cent in 2009. Both agreed that continued strong and coordinated international action is necessary to restore confidence, growth and to protect jobs, and committed to cooperate closely in the lead up to the 1-2 April meeting of G20 Leaders in London. They emphasised the importance of collective action to normalise global private credit flows as well as strong stimulus measures and reforms to the global financial system.
Increasing economic integration
Despite the global economic downturn, the Prime Ministers committed to achieving new levels of trans-Tasman economic integration.
The Prime Ministers committed to:
- accelerate regulatory harmonisation and alignment between the two economies in order to stimulate business and create jobs;
- finalise this year an Investment Protocol to promote investment between the two economies through a reduction in regulatory barriers and compliance costs for business;
- complete a new comprehensive Tax Treaty between Australia and New Zealand to reduce tax barriers to trade and investment, further protect the tax base in each jurisdiction and simplify and improve certainty for those with trans-Tasman business interests;
- conclude a scheme for the mobility of trans-Tasman retirement savings which will enable pension funds to be moved between Australia and New Zealand;
- undertake a review of Closer Economic Relations (CER) Rules of Origin, and an updating of the Australia-New Zealand Joint Food Standards Treaty;
- reduce remaining barriers at the borders to ensure that people and goods can move more easily between the two countries, including through effective air links;
- further strengthen cooperation to promote open markets and trade opportunities for exporters, including through the ASEAN Australia New Zealand Free Trade Agreement signed on 27 February and a successful conclusion of the WTO Doha Development Round;
- expand joint trade promotion activities to increase global market shares for the trans-Tasman economy; and
- undertake further work on therapeutic product standards between the two countries.
Both Prime Ministers emphasised the importance of a successful Copenhagen Climate Change conference in December to decide on a post-Kyoto international climate change framework beyond 2012. Both countries will work closely together in the lead up to the Copenhagen conference. The Prime Ministers agreed on the desirability of harmonising to the greatest extent possible the emissions reduction regimes in both countries. Prime Minister Key expressed support for Australia’s initiative to establish a Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute.
Square Kilometre Array Radio Telescope Project
Prime Minister Key indicated that New Zealand would collaborate closely with Australia in its bid to host the Square Kilometre Array Radio Telescope Project (SKA). This project will be the world’s premier radio telescope and will be constructed over the period 2012-2020.
The two Prime Ministers agreed on the need for continued close cooperation on developments in the Pacific, especially helping Pacific Island countries achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. It will be essential to sustain support for developing Pacific island nations in the face of the effects of the global economic crisis on the region. They announced a joint Australia–New Zealand study on the regional implications of the global economic downturn to be completed before the 2009 Pacific Islands Forum meeting to be hosted by Australia in August. The crisis will be a major focus of the Forum discussions.
The Prime Ministers also discussed a range of common international interests, including Afghanistan and regional and global security challenges.
Prime Minister Key presented a cheque from the New Zealand Red Cross for NZ$2m for the Australian Red Cross Victorian bushfires appeal. Mr Rudd expressed deep appreciation for the strong support provided by New Zealand in the face of Australia’s worst bushfires, including assistance from 100 New Zealand fire-fighters.
The CER Ministerial meeting in July 2009 will provide a report on progress to the Prime Ministers at a further meeting between them in Australia in August 2009.