Following is text of statement released in Canberra this afternoon.
Trading relationship between Australia and New Zealand (underlined)
The Minister for Special Trade Representations and Minister Assisting the Minister for Trade and Resources, Mr R. E. V. Garland, announced that he would be departing for New Zealand at the weekend to undertake a visit at the invitation of the New Zealand Government.
Mr Garland stated that the purpose of his visit would be to obtain a deeper understanding of New Zealand views as background to the examination of possibilities for a closer trading relationship between Australia and New Zealand.
Mr Garland recalled that the Australian and New Zealand Prime Ministers had agreed that studies should be made of options for a closer trading relationship between the two countries, following discussions which took place in Wellington, in April this year, between the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Anthony, and New Zealand Prime Minister, Mr Muldoon, and earlier in Australia during the visit of New Zealand's Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Talboys.
Mr Garland said that the contacts which he would have with political leaders and heads of organisations representing commerce, industry, agriculture and labour, would be of considerable value to him in assessing the main issues and New Zealand attitudes towards possible forms of closer economic co-operation between the two countries. Mr Garland emphasised, however, that he would not be negotiating or discussing details of the various options whilst in New Zealand. Under the timetable established on the basis of discussion between the two Prime Ministers when they met in Lusaka last month, the first formal exchange of views will take place when senior government officials meet in Wellington in October. Those discussions will prepare the way for a meeting of the Prime Ministers before the end of February 1980.
Mr Garland stated that Australia was approaching the exercise with an open mind and in a constructive spirit. It was recognised that the issues were complex and potentially sensitive and neither Government would be prepared to act precipitately. Indeed there was not even a commitment to making any change in the status quo. However, both Governments had agreed that the international trade and economic outlook for the 1980s and slow progress in further expanding the coverage of the free trade area under NAFTA pointed to the need for a closer examination of the bilateral trading relationship.
Mr Garland said that while NAFTA had been a valuable instrument in promoting significantly trade across the Tasman-currently in excess of dollars 1 billion-there was reason to doubt whether the agreement was capable of providing sufficient impetus for greater expansion of trade. If both countries were unable to obtain greater overall benefits from further liberalisation of trade or other forms of economic co-operation, it would not be because the Governments had neglected to consider the opportunities.
[NAA: A1838, 37011/19/18, v]