Pan-Asian trading bloc a “work in progress” - PM

October 25, 2009 - 0:0

A pan-Asian trade zone spanning from India to New Zealand and as far as Japan is an ambitious “work in progress”, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said Saturday.

Mr Key arrived in the Thai seaside resort of Hua Hin to attend this weekend’s East Asia Summit which brings together the 10 southeast Asian nations under the Asean (Association of South East Asian Nations) banner and six others -- China, Japan, India, Australia, South Korea and New Zealand.
On the agenda is a push by some countries to create a pan-Asia trading bloc to rival and eventually eclipse the European Union.
Mr Key said there was no way such a deal could be done quickly, but the fact that half of the world’s trade would be represented at the table meant positive steps could be taken.
New Zealand has a trade deal with Asean, while Asean has deals in place with others at the summit.
It is estimated that tariff elimination and the reduction of other trade barriers in Cepea (Comprehensive Economic Partnership in East Asia) would lift New Zealand’s GDP by $500 million or 2 percent.
Japan has even been talking about a common Asian currency, but Mr Key said that was not realistic in the short term and was probably more of a sign of an appetite for broader progress on more mundane but important issues such as trade barriers on economic issues.
Asian countries have been stung by the world-wide recession and are rethinking their strategy to boost economic growth through increasing exports to developed nations and are looking to build regional markets.