Australia - New Zealand Economic Relations
We reported to the Acting Minister on the outcome of the latest record of ministerial talks on 'closer economic relations'. A copy of the submission1 is attached. Mr Anthony and Mr Talboys took advantage of the NAFTA ministerials talks to review progress and agree on further work.
- The officials' studies agreed to by the two Prime Ministers in March3 have gone ahead satisfactorily although it could not be said that they have yet succeeded in bringing significantly greater definition to the form of a possible 'closer economic relationship'.
In part, the apparent enthusiasm of the CAl is probably based on frustration at the lack of a clear idea of precisely what the Government is proposing, and hence what the likely consequences for Australian industries will be. They would probably like in short, something more concrete to consider.
- The next step proposed is for officials to try to achieve agreement on the factual basis of their studies. This would mean, for example, reaching a common view on the operations of New Zealand's export incentive scheme, and its significance for the competitive position of New Zealand exporters vis-a-vis their Australian counterparts. Agreement on the relevant facts in areas such as this is seen as being an essential pre-requisite to any harmonisation of policy, and the removal of inequities.
- In our note to the Acting Minister, we commented that after the NAFTA talks Mr Anthony had appeared to set more store by the continuation of NAFTA than he had previously been inclined to do, possibly because of a growing sense of the difficulty of replacing it with the 'closer economic relationship'. These more difficult questions are expected to be discussed by the Permanent Heads Committee in November. His submission expressed no misgivings about the likely outcome of the discussions and studies underway, although there is a hint that he expects the concept of 'equality of trading opportunity' to give rise to some impassioned discussions.
[NAA: A1838, 370/1119118, xix]