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Australia to back 16-nation Asian trade block at summit with ASEAN news
15 January 2007

Mumbai: Australia will back a proposal to bring together the 10-member ASEAN, Japan, China, India, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia in a larger 16-nation trade bloc.

Australian prime minister John Howard, attending the second South East Asia summit at the resort island of Cebu in The Philippines, said. The meeting aims at giving a boost to trade flows among Asean and its Asian neighbors like Japan, China, India, South Korea and New Zealand.

Australia will also push its application for permanent membership in ASEAN, analysts said.

Asean, which includes Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, has a population of 558 million and a combined gross domestic product of $833 billion. Nearly 15 per cent of Australia''s exports are to the ASEAN countries, government figures show.

An agreement on tariffs and subsidies with ASEAN would be a big boon to Australian traders, analysts said, adding that it would offer significant benefits on the security front as well. Trade among ASEAN nations exceeds $1 trillion.

ASEAN ministers had earlier objected to Howard attending the 2005 inaugural meeting of the East Asia summit after remarks that he would be prepared to order a pre-emptive strike on another country to stop a terrorist attack at home.

Australia wants South East Asian nations to form a joint anti-terrorism task force. Australia and Indonesia have worked together investigating terrorist attacks in Indonesian that have killed more than 240 people. Bombings on the tourist island of Bali killed 202, including 88 Australians, in 2002.

The first East Asia Summit in Malaysia that ended on December 14, 2005, failed to arrive at an agreement on an Asian trade alliance similar to the European Union.

ASEAN economic ministers agreed on August 24 to study a Japanese proposal for a 16-nation free-trade area, covering 3 billion people and economic output of $9 trillion. China, meanwhile, had proposed the setting up of an economic bloc of only Asean, China, Japan and South Korea.


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Australia to back 16-nation Asian trade block at summit with ASEAN