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Australian and New Zealand PMs Meet in New Zealand

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull flew across the ditch to meet his New Zealand counterpart Bill English, the first such meeting since the latter replaced John Key.

It was also the first formal meeting between Australia and New Zealand since the election of United States President Donald Trump.

The main issue for discussion was what the two countries were going to do to support growth in trade now that President Trump had pulled out of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), an agreement which was meant to be the mainstay of both countries’ trading future.

The two leaders were upbeat about the way forward.

They agreed to adopt an approach whereby they would work with the other TPP member countries, with the exception of the United States, to develop a mechanism to implement as much of the agreement as possible.

This agreement was a boost for Malcolm Turnbull who had been accused of trying to breathe life into an agreement that’s dead in the water.

The two Prime Ministers also agreed to work together on establishing a free trade agreement with Britain once Brexit had been accomplished by the United Kingdom.

Apart from this they agreed to support the implementation of the ASEAN initiated Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership RCEP), the Asia wide free trade agreement favoured by China.

The leaders called, in the light of recent events, for the RCEP to be “a modern, comprehensive, high quality agreement with commercially meaningful outcomes, in order to provide a strong boost to global economic confidence”.

They also reaffirmed their support for the World Trade Organisation and the multilateral trading system.

Of course Prime Minister Turnbull couldn’t attend an international meeting without raising the subjects of science and innovation: the meeting also saw the signature of the Australia New Zealand Science, Research and Innovation Cooperation Agreement which provides for a wide array of cooperative initiatives 4 February 20, 2017 Inside Canberra New Washington embassy render across science, research and innovation systems, from a government-to-government level through to collaboration between individual researchers.

It will enable both countries to identify shared science, research and innovation priorities and pool resources and expertise to deliver better and bigger outcomes than each country could achieve alone.

The two governments are optimistic that stronger collaboration on science, research and innovation will offer opportunities to enhance welfare and prosperity and create jobs across their economies in both new and traditional industries.

Whether this eventuates remains to be seen.

The big feature of the bilateral relationship between Australia and New Zealand is the single economic market.

It is early days in the development of this initiative and the outcomes are hard to measure.

At the press conference after the meeting Bill English was asked about the fact that New Zealand had cut its corporate taxes and whether this was having an impact on the New Zealand economy.

He said that the hope was that businesses would be attracted to New Zealand from Australia because of the differences in tax rates but that this was yet to happen.

Mr English made the further point that it was in New Zealand’s interest that Australia maintained a strong economy because such a large proportion of New Zealand exports go to Australia.

Last year Malcolm Turnbull announced that New Zealanders who were long-term residents of Australia would have the opportunity to become Australian citizens from 1 July this year.

He reaffirmed this opportunity at the meeting.

At the same time he made it clear that New Zealanders who were found guilty of a criminal offence would have their visas cancelled and be deported back across the ditch.

In a matter dear to Bill English’s heart the two leaders discussed the investment approach to social policy which Social Services Minister Christian Porter has copied from New Zealand.

There are questions about whether the approach has really been a success in New Zealand but both leaders agreed that it was worth persisting with the strategy in the future.

Of course Mr English is in the fortunate position of not having a Senate to veto his proposals.

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