FOREIGN Affairs Minister Alexander Downer was in Perth last week for talks with local business and economic groups about the benefits of free trade.
Mr Downer told members of the WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Committee for Economic Development of Australia how global liberalisation of trade was high on the Federal Government’s agenda.
He said its benefits were evident in the recent Australia-US Free Trade Agreement. The wine industry, the minerals and energy sector and, on a whole, the agricultural sector were areas where WA would particularly benefit.
Mr Downer said there was now a particular focus on the Asian region.
Australia has recently signed FTAs with Thailand and Singapore and is in negotiations with China and Japan.
There is also a proposal with the Association of South-East Asian Nations.
Mr Downer told WA Business News countries in the region were increasingly looking at the benefits of FTAs.
“I think what is having an effect [in the Asian region] is the free trade agreements that we have already done,” he said. “It means that countries that haven’t got on to the FTA track, like Malaysia and Indonesia, the Philippines and so on, are thinking well, what does this mean for us when our neighbours are doing these agreements?
“And our answer to their question is, well, we have offered to do an agreement with whole of ASEAN.”