Negotiations on the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA) originate from efforts begun in the early 1990s under the former Labor Government to develop linkages between the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) and the Australia-New Zealand Closer Economic Relations (CER) Agreement.
Following supportive comments by then Thai Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Supachai, at the National Trade and Investment Outlook Conference in Melbourne in November 1993, DFAT’s East Asia Economic Analytical Unit released a report recommending the establishment of a formal dialogue between CER and AFTA. This was followed closely by the ASEAN-Australia Forum’s May 1994 Joint Press Release, at which Ministers concluded that formal linkages between AFTA and CER merited “further discussion”.
Harnessing this momentum, Ministers from Australia, New Zealand and ASEAN nations held their first informal consultations in September 1995, in Brunei, at which they agreed to establish “region to region linkages” between AFTA and CER.
In 1999, ASEAN, Australian and New Zealand Ministers established a High Level Task Force to examine the feasibility of an AFTA-CER free trade area. The resulting report - the Angkor Agenda of 2000 – made a strong case for the establishment of an AFTA-CER free trade area.
The Angkor Agenda set the scene for the establishment, in 2002, of the AFTA-CER Closer Economic Partnership (CEP) which aimed to deepen the level of economic integration between Australia and New Zealand and the countries of ASEAN through a work program focused on trade facilitation and capacity building.
During their Retreat in Singapore on 21 April 2004, ASEAN Economic Ministers reviewed the current AFTA-CER partnership, and agreed that it would be beneficial to both regions to upgrade their economic relations to the next level. To this end, they expressed support for consideration of a Free Trade Area between ASEAN, Australia and New Zealand.
Meeting on 5 September 2004 in Jakarta for their annual consultations, trade and economic Ministers from ASEAN, Australia and New Zealand recommended to their Leaders that they support the negotiation of a free trade agreement (FTA).
Leaders from ASEAN, Australia and New Zealand met in Laos on 30 November 2004, and accepted the proposal. The 12 leaders announced plans to begin negotiations on an FTA in early 2005.