Dec 18, 2007

Australia Japan Relations: Has The FTA Just Been Harpooned?

Exporters and MFAT officials here in Wellington are sighing with relief as Australian PM Rudd weighs into the whaling issue with Japan, suggesting that the Australian defence forces will monitor Japanese whaling activity. This will make an even more delicate issue in Japan, the FTA with Australia even more of a challenge. Repeated comments by New Zealand Minister Chris Carter in recent years had been seen as setting back chances of New Zealand securing a negotiating space with Japan, but PM Clark has been careful to distance herself from her Minister. Involvement by Rudd in the issue has more than raised eyebrows in Japan and will be contrasted with Clark's more sensitive stance.

New Zealand is concerned that if Australia secures an FTA deal with Japan (and New Zealand does not), New Zealand exports in its third biggest market could lose competitiveness.

The Hive believes that thanks to CER, Australia and New Zealand are essentially one economy. We favour joint negotiations with Australia wherever possible.