54 Report by Andrews on Meeting of Australian Steering Committee

Canberra, 11 December 1979

Australia - New Zealand Co-operation: Steering Committee

The following are the main points that emerged from the meeting of the Steering Committee on Australia- New Zealand economic co-operation on 10 December.

Meeting with New Zealand Officials1

  1. The Steering Committee was advised by Mr Flood (STR) that discussions with the New Zealand delegation would take the form of a full session on Wednesday with Thursday morning set aside for consultations with individual departmental counterparts and a return to full session discussions on Thursday afternoon. It was suggested that Foreign Affairs might wish to speak to Mr Beath. The Departments of National Development and Transport were asked to provide delegates for particular items on the Agenda. The other departments involved are expected to have a representative in attendance for all the discussions.
  2. A low-key exchange of views rather than striking initiatives was expected of the meeting. Nevertheless, there would have to be an indication of some progress otherwise momentum might be lost. Mr Flood raised the possibility of a joint report to be prepared by February. Another working level officials' meeting was expected to be necessary before February especially as it was not clear what progress the New Zealand side had made to date. There was some inconclusive discussion about the difficulties of preparing joint papers with the meeting unable to take a firm view until more was known of New Zealand's position.
  3. A list of designated speakers on each agenda item and a draft agenda is attached.

Working Group 1

  1. Mr Waterman (Treasury) outlined Working Group 1's progress on the dynamic implications for Australia and New Zealand of various forms of closer economic association. A draft report is expected to be finalised early next week following another meeting of the Working Group on Friday. The main conclusion of the Report thus far is that any form of closer association should ensure that the benefits of more general trade liberalisation are not foregone and that costs of maintaining inefficient industries are minimised. The Group has looked at the main options identified by the Permanent Head's memorandum of understanding.2 There have been some difficulties in quantification so that the conclusions reached will be broad and generalised. lAC involvement has included a review of the possibility of contributing to the Report by using the Impact model, but it is not likely that the results will be meaningful. Mr Waterman felt that the draft report would be suitable for handing over to the New Zealanders.

Working Group 2

  1. Mr Bayley (Industry and Commerce) reported that Working Group 2 has been moving towards producing a paper in three chapters:-
    1. the institutional implications of the elimination of protective devices under both a free trade area and a customs union-a general assessment paper has been prepared by Treasury with separate sections on industrial implications being contributed by Primary Industry, DTR (minerals) and DIC (secondary industry);
    2. tariff and non-tariff barriers elimination techniques-this looks at both the Australian and New Zealand systems and also deals with voluntary export restraints;
    3. administrative arrangements for tariff and non-tariff barrier harmonisation-this covers dumping, rules of origin etc., and is being largely prepared by STR.
  2. There will also be a two page overview paper drawing out the conclusions of the separate chapters. There is some doubt whether this Working Group will meet the deadline of 19 December. There were no inhibitions about handing over a cleared version of the Group's Report to the New Zealanders, however, references to New Zealand industries might be deleted.

Working Group 3

  1. Mr Hawes (STR) reported that the Group has so far identified forms of assistance for examination. Papers have been circulated to departments, but so far coverage was patchy and implications were not drawn out sharply. There will be a further meeting of the Group later this week to finalise individual papers and begin an overview paper. The Group's Report was expected to be finalised by the end of next week and would be suitable for handling to New Zealand officials.

Working Group on the 1944 Treaty

  1. Mr Gate (Foreign Affairs) outlined the results of the Group's deliberations:- (i) the 1944 Treaty was not a useful working draft from which to work towards a new draft;
    1. while no departments especially favoured the development of a new Treaty none were opposed;
    2. it was decided to begin work on drafting a new Treaty even though the meeting felt that progress on this front would have to wait until after the substance of the new economic relationship becomes clearer.
  2. Contributions to a draft were currently being prepared by departments. This Group would not be preparing a report to be given to the New Zealand side.

Handing Over of Papers to New Zealanders

  1. Working Groups 1, 2 and 3 were urged to do their best to meet the 19 December deadline. The meeting considered that we would need to make it clear that the reports were draft working papers only.

Transport

  1. After much discussion about the merits of including transport issues in the exercise (it was referred to by the Permanent Heads) it was agreed that the Department of Transport should circulate a background paper for the consideration of departments.

Energy

  1. The Department of National Development recorded its view that it was unclear just what could be achieved on the energy side of co-operation with New Zealand as major initiatives were already in train.

Points for Public Use

  1. The meeting agreed to the draft points for public use (copy attached) with minor drafting modifications. The points were prepared by STR on the basis of the Lusaka discussions between the countries' respective Prime Ministers.

Ministerial Involvement

  1. Mr Flood flagged the notion of ministerial involvement by February 1980 noting that there had been no substantive submissions to Cabinet to date.

[NAA: Al838, 37011/19118, xii]