NZ, Australia look to tighten economic ties

TRACY WATKINS
Last updated 05:00 30/01/2012

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New Zealand and Australia have agreed to a joint study into how to bring the two economies even closer together.

The study will be done by the Australian and New Zealand productivity commissions and be wrapped up ahead of the 30th anniversary of the trans-Tasman Closer Economic Relationship next year.

The study was announced by Prime Minister John Key and his Australian counterpart Julia Gillard in Melbourne yesterday.

They said the aim of the study would be to look at options to increase economic integration between the two countries and improve economic outcomes.

Ms Gillard said the trans-Tasman relationship under CER was “one of the true partnerships around the world for economic integration, one of the standout partnerships".

“So we are world leaders in this, but we want to keep building for the future, so we’ve asked our two Productivity Commissions to work together on a joint study as to how we can build on our close economic ties now for the future. “

Finance Minister Bill English said it was an opportunity to “refresh the thinking”.

It was timely for both countries to have a fresh look at the economic relationship as the balance of economic power shifted to Asia.

One of the issues likely to be looked at was the exchange of workers across the Tasman in what was an increasingly integrated labour market.

NZ TO BAR TOBACCO RE-EXPORT TO AUSTRALIA

Meanwhile, the New Zealand government says it will bar the re-export of any branded tobacco products across the Tasman,  as Australia moves to force tobacco products to be sold in plain packaging from next year.
 
The NZ government has also announced that it is following the implementation of the plain packaging laws closely in a sign that it considers the Australian laws a test case and could follow suit.
 
In a joint statement issued following a meeting between ministers and the prime ministers of Australia and New Zealand at the weekend, the two governments pledged to cooperate closely in their efforts to reduce tobacco use.
 
"New Zealand will closely follow progress in implementation of Australia’s plain packaging legislation and the countries will look to ensure that no branded tobacco is able to be re-exported from New Zealand to Australia," they said.
 
It was not clear how that will affect duty-free cigarettes bought in New Zealand by travellers to Australia, where the new law is due to come into effect next year.

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The big tobacco companies have launched a legal challenge in an attempt to halt the law change because they believe it will set a global precedent.

Under the law change, cigarettes, pipe tobacco and cigars will have to be sold in plain green packs that are free of branding but contain graphic health warnings.

SHARING CRIMS' INFORMATION

The two countries have also agreed to a six month trial extending sharing criminal history for employment vetting.

Mr Key and Ms Gillard yesterday announced the trial, which is initially limited to Queensland.

In a joint statement, they said it would be for an initial six month period to test the usefulness of the scheme.

They also directed officials to speed up work on reciprocal information sharing to support border control and law enforcement.

This would mean greater access on both sides of the Tasman to police and criminal records for people crossing the ditch.

The trial was among a raft of measures announced after ministers met to discuss issues across the economy, defence, security and border control.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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