Ministers Enhance the Trans-Tasman Business Environment

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Ministers Enhance the Trans-Tasman Business Environment



Hon Peter Costello Treasurer

Hon Dr Michael Cullen New Zealand Minister for Finance


An agreement to progress cooperation on banking and competition regulation

and the establishment of a Trans-Tasman Accounting Standards Advisory Group

were among the many issues discussed today by Treasurer Peter Costello and New

Zealand Finance Minister Michael Cullen during their annual bilateral meeting.

Today’s discussions made significant progress toward trans-Tasman business

integration with the aim of building on the CER (Closer Economic Relations)

agreement towards a single economic market based on common regulatory frameworks.

“We have agreed on the importance of working closely together in the

development of our competition regimes as a means of improving the conditions

for business on both sides of the Tasman. Already, our policy and enforcement

agencies are working together to improve cooperation and coordination within

our regimes in a number of key respects (eg improved information sharing and

exploration of the potential for cross appointments between competition authorities).”

“We have also agreed to conduct research to explore ways of improving

the integration of our competition regimes. Issues that may be considered include

improved co ordination of authorisation processes, joint decision making on

trans-Tasman issues by competition authorities and co-ordinated/combined institutional

frameworks. We will shortly finalise terms of reference.”

Mr Costello and Dr Cullen announced a plan to reduce transaction costs for

businesses through the development of common trans-Tasman accounting standards.

A Trans-Tasman Accounting Standards Advisory Group was announced to advise

the respective Governments and accounting standard setters on ways to reduce

costs and improve efficiency by aiming for a single set of standards.

“As well as its work towards developing common standards, the Group

will foster co-operation in relation to the broader debate on the development

of international standards. In doing so, it will seek to promote links with

other accounting standard setters in the region.”

The group was foreshadowed at the CER Ministerial Forum last August and includes

representatives from Australian and New Zealand standard setters, and Australia’s

Financial Reporting Council.

Following ANZ’s acquisition of the National Bank of New Zealand, Australian

banks now occupy over 80 per cent of the New Zealand banking market, and Australia’s

four major banks are also New Zealand’s four major banks.

“In the light of these developments, we agreed that closer integration

of the two markets is welcome, subject to the need to maintain the safety and

stability of both financial systems. We have agreed to work to mutual recognition

and harmonisation in prudential regulation,” the Ministers said.

Mr Costello and Dr Cullen have agreed that Australia and New Zealand will

jointly negotiate tax information exchange agreements wherever practicable.

Joint negotiation of these agreements reflects our two countries’ common

interests in the principles of transparency and effective exchange of information,

which underlie the OECD’s Harmful Tax Practices Initiative and work on

Bank Secrecy.

These agreements will facilitate the exchange of tax information between countries,

enabling Australia and New Zealand to obtain tax information which will help

protect the integrity of our tax systems, protect businesses from unfair competition

and contribute to efforts to counter drug trafficking, money laundering and

the financing of terrorism. Australia and New Zealand intend to negotiate a

network of such agreements including in the Pacific region.

Mr Costello and Dr Cullen, also announced the commencement of information

exchange negotiations with the Caribbean state of Antigua and Barbuda. These

are the first information exchange negotiations for both Australia and New Zealand.

Mr Costello and Dr Cullen discussed the success of joint efforts in the region,

most notably the substantial progress made by the Regional Assistance Mission

to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI).

Under the leadership of Australia and supported strongly by New Zealand and

many other Pacific Island Countries, RAMSI is restoring law, order and good

economic management to the Solomon Islands.

Mr Costello and Dr Cullen discussed their mutual concern at the current lack

of progress in multilateral trade talks.

“Progress in multilateral trade negotiations is vital if the gains from

trade are to be shared by all, in particular, those from the world’s poorest

countries.” Ministers said. “For Australia and New Zealand, the

multilateral trading system is the bedrock for our participation in the global

economy. Supporting and advancing this system is amongst our highest economic

priorities. Australia and New Zealand stand ready to work toward a successful


30 January 2004

Contact: Niki Savva

Ph: (02) 6277 7340