98 Minute from Evans to Dalrymple, Kingsmill, Lang

Canberra, 16 July 1980

CONFIDENTIAL

Australia- New Zealand Economic Relations

As you are aware, there have been a number of recent references in the New Zealand media which have tended to cast some renewed doubt on New Zealand attitudes towards the closer economic relationship discussed by Mr Fraser and Mr Muldoon in Wellington in March. Bentley has told me that he is inclined to think that there is no cause for alarm but that the High Commissioner takes a less optimistic view.

  1. I telephoned Frank Anderson today to see if he had any indications as to where the New Zealand concern might be coming from. Anderson said that his own view was that New Zealand officials had not done as much work as we had and the more they examined the problems the more they had found out what would be involved for New Zealand and might be backing away from the closer economic relationship. He thought also that Muldoon could be under some pressure from industries which might be adversely affected.
  2. We discussed the requirement for a progress report by officials for consideration at the NAFTA Ministerial meeting on 12 and 13 August. Anderson said that he had intended that officials would meet from 6-8 August to prepare a report and to exchange lists of products which would be affected by a closer economic relationship. The New Zealanders had indicated that they would send ten people to these talks. Anderson had just been informed however that the New Zealanders were not proposing that 'because of the lack of progress on the Australian side' there would not be a need for the review talks. Anderson had done a quick check around the relevant Departments and was glad to say that the Australian studies were on schedule in respect of almost all the papers required and that he had told Turnbull of the New Zealand High Commission that we still saw a need for a couple of days of discussions for a plenary session and bilateral discussions. In particular, he was concerned to dispel any suggestion that the talks could not go ahead because the Australian side was not ready. He had in mind that the IDC would be called together next week to ensure that if there were any loose ends they could be tied in time for the talks.
  3. I said that I would telephone Huon and reinforce STR's views. I subsequently spoke to Huon and recalled the requirement for a progress report indicating that we were surprised at suggestions if they were true that we might not be ready. I confirmed that I had had advice from Anderson that we would be ready for talks and hoped that the New Zealand side would be also. He said he would check the position and let me know.

[NAA: Al838, 370/1/19/18, xviii]