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Asean concludes Australia, New Zealand free trade talks

By Xinhua,

Singapore : The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) has concluded a free trade deal with Australia and New Zealand following three years of talks, said a joint statement issued here Thursday.

“The ministers welcomed the conclusion of the negotiations between Asean, Australia and New Zealand” for the free trade agreement (FTA), which started in March 2005, said the statement.

The 10-member bloc’s trade ministers met their counterparts from Australia and New Zealand Thursday, as part of the 40th Asean Economic Ministers Meeting now running for the third day in Singapore.

The comprehensive agreement covered trade in goods, investment, services, financial services, telecommunications, electronic commerce, movement of natural persons, intellectual property, competition policy and economic cooperation, it said.

The ministers saw the deal “as paving the way to enhancing the region’s economic integration and acting as an impetus to deepen and broaden the trade and investment among the 12 participating countries”, it added.

The deal is expected to be signed in December.

During the meeting, Australia and New Zealand also recognised Vietnam’s full market economy status.

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