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Aussies pledge support for regional trade bloc
Last Updated(Beijing Time):2007-01-15 15:15
Australia will back a 16-nation trade bloc to boost exports to its Asian neighbors at the East Asia Summit in Cebu, the Philippines.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard and Trade Minister Warren Truss will attend the second East Asia meeting today along with leaders from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations plus Japan, China, India, South Korea and New Zealand. Australia will also push its application for permanent membership in ASEAN, analysts said.

"ASEAN is a gold mine for Australian traders if we can secure some agreements on tariffs and subsidies," Hal Hill, a professor in Asian studies and ASEAN at the Canberra-based Australian National University, told Bloomberg News. "It also has some significant benefits on the security front."

Australia wants to join ASEAN, which covers a population of 558 million and combined gross domestic product of US$833 billion, to boost trade and security. Fifteen percent of Australian exports are shipped to ASEAN, government figures show.

Trade among ASEAN nations exceeds US$1 trillion.

Members are Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

Howard was initially banned from the 2005 inaugural meeting of the East Asia Summit after he said he would be prepared to order a pre-emptive strike on another country to stop a terrorist attack at home.

ASEAN ministers said Howard could not attend until Australia signed a non-aggression treaty.

Howard refused in 2004, although Foreign Minister Alexander Downer reversed that decision last year, guaranteeing Australia a seat at the first summit in Kuala Lumpur.

Source:Shanghai Daily 
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