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Tuesday, 7 May, 2002, 06:16 GMT 07:16 UK
Australia to boost Asian trade
Melbourne Trade Centre
Australian reliance on European trade is history
Australia's government has outlined plans to draw up new foreign and trade policies in a bid to strengthen its trading links with Asian economies.

"We've been looking and working quite energetically at strengthening the framework of our relationship with Japan, Korea and China," said trade minister Mark Vaile.

Australia is driven by a mixture of disgruntlement with the workings of the global markets and the World Trade Organisation, and by an urge to penetrate large and growing markets like China.

"China certainly looms large in terms of one of our major trading partners," said Mr Vaile.

Changed focus

Australia will shift further away from its historic reliance on European trade when it redrafts its policies later this year.

The new policies are expected to focus more on bilateral trade agreements with individual countries.

In Asia, Singapore and Thailand are firmly on Australia's radar, in addition to China and Japan.

Australia is also expected to sign a trade pact with the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations later this year.

This would improve its trading relations with the association's member states Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Economic strength

Australia's trade has been hit by the weak global economy which has caused its exports to fall while its imports have risen.

In contrast to many of its trading partners, Australia's economy is performing very well with economic growth of about 4%, strong consumer spending and rising job vacancies.

Consequently, many economists predicted that the Reserve Bank of Australia would raise the interest rate when it meets on Tuesday.

If the anticipated rise in the official rate from 4.25% to 4.5% materialises, it will be the first rate hike in Australia since August 2000.

See also:

03 May 02 | Business
US farm aid threatens new trade row
01 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
Japan and Australia move on free trade
11 Mar 02 | Business
Australia cuts deal in steel row
02 Oct 01 | Business
Trade slumps in Australia
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