Australia-Japan Free Trade Agreement study into final stages

22 November, 2006

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade, Mark Vaile, has welcomed the successful conclusion of the fifth and final meeting of the Australia-Japan Joint Study Group which has been examining the feasibility of a free trade agreement between the two countries.

The joint study was initiated by Prime Minister Howard and Prime Minister Koizumi in April 2005.

"The results emerging from the study suggest that an FTA between Australia and Japan would bring real benefits to Australian companies by giving them assured and improved access to the world's second largest economy and Australia's largest market for most of the past fifty years", Vaile said.

"Australia would benefit greatly from an FTA not only in traditional areas of bilateral trade such as minerals, energy and natural resources, but also in areas such as manufacturing, and services."

"There is considerable potential for Australia to lift its services exports to Japan in areas such as health and aged care, financial and legal services. An FTA with Australia's number one customer would help achieve this."

"The study group's work also suggests that Japan would reap major benefits from an FTA", Vaile said. "These benefits could include greater security of supply of key resources to Japan by reinforcing the role of the market place."

"An Australia-Japan FTA could provide Japanese customers with secure access to clean, safe and reliable supplies of the highest quality food from Australia."

Vaile said that the work of the study group had highlighted sensitivities on both sides that would need to be managed carefully if agreement is reached to commence formal negotiation but he was confident these could be worked through.

Vaile said officials from both sides were expected to settle the final elements of the report over the coming weeks.

The final report of the joint study group will be considered by senior officials at a meeting in Canberra in  November.

Vaile said he looked forward to discussing the final report of the joint study group with the new Japanese government.