ASEAN economic ministers hold consultation with Australia, New Zealand hinh anh 1In Khanh Hoa province (Photo: VNA)

Hanoi (VNA) – The ASEAN economic ministers held the virtual 25th consultation with external partners Australia and New Zealand on August 29, within the framework of the 52nd ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Meeting and related meetings.

The event was co-chaired by Vietnamese Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh, Australian Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Simon Birmingham, and Minister of State for Trade and Export Growth Damien O’Connor.

They said two-way trade between ASEAN and Australia rose slightly to 87.8 billion USD last year from 86.8 billion USD in 2018. Meanwhile, that between ASEAN and New Zealand went up 6.6 percent to 12.1 billion USD in 2019 from 11.4 billion USD in 2018.

Australia’s direct investment in the bloc reached 32.6 billion USD last year, or 5.5 percent of the country’s total. New Zealand also poured 560 million USD in the grouping, accounting for 3.2 percent.

Expressing concern over the impacts of COVID-19, ministers said the hardest-hit sectors include transportation, tourism, retail and other services, besides disruption of supply chains and financial markets.

They reaffirmed commitment to opening trade and investment markets to reinforce resilience and sustainability of regional supply chains and maintain the flow of goods and services.

They pledged not to impose new trade limitation measures, including non-tariff ones that hurt the flow of key goods and services in the fight against the pandemic.

Participants agreed to give priority to facilitating economic recovery following the pandemic, as well as strive to sign the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership this year, thus expressing support for regional multilateral trade system and regional economic integration.

Acknowledging progress in negotiations for the upgrade of the agreement establishing the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA), they directed officials to continue stepping up the process in the near future, including removing unnecessary barriers to restore regional business community’s trust.

They highlighted a need to reform the World Trade Organisation and vowed to join hands during the process to meet expectation of member states.

They consented to hold the 12th AANZFTA Joint Committee and the ninth ASEAN – Closer Economic Relations (CER) Integration Partnership Forum at the earliest possible time./.