148 Telex from Department of Primary Industry to Industry Organisations and State Government Officials

[Canberra, 17 March 1981]1

Australia-NZ economic relations

Senior Australian and New Zealand officials met in Wellington 11 and 12 March to continue discussions on a possible closer economic relationship which the two Prime Ministers set in train last March and which was subsequently outlined to industry organisations and State Government officials.

The meeting was held against the background of recent consideration of the issues by Australian Ministers and separately by New Zealand Ministers. The objective of the discussions was to ensure a full understanding of ministerial attitudes on both sides and to clarify differences in position. Resolution of such differences will be necessary before details of any possible arrangement can be made public and substantive decisions taken in accordance with the undertaking given by the Australian Prime Minister in his statement to Parliament last year.2

Matters discussed included the way in which tariffs affecting trade between the two countries are to be phased out, the approach to be taken to the removal of quantitative restrictions, the impact of export incentives on trans-Tasman trade, arrangements to cover special problems which might be caused by the liberalisation process in some sectors, Government purchasing and finance and banking.

The approaches being explored on tariffs, import licensing, export incentives and other matters apply to all products including all agricultural commodities.

In agriculture attention is being given to the impact of support and stabilisation schemes including the need to integrate New Zealand monopoly import arrangements into the general framework of a closer economic relationship. Specific commodities which are still under discussion include dairy products, horticulture, wine, sugar, wheat, citrus, grapes, pineapples and bananas.

Discussions on aspects of a closer economic relationship will continue at official level in order to provide a sound basis for further discussions at ministerial level which may be appropriate within the next two or three months.

In the meantime, industry organisations and State Governments are again invited to contact the relevant Commonwealth Government Departments should they wish to discuss any aspects of this question in more detail.

[NAA: A1838, 370/1/19/18, xxi]