New Zealand signs ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement

New Zealand has signed the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA), a 12-country free trade agreement. It is the latest free trade agreement that New Zealand has entered into, following the China-New Zealand agreement of October 2008 (for further details please see "New Zealand and China sign free trade agreement").
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region is New Zealand's third-largest export market - worth NZ$4.6 billion in the year to June 2008. The AANZFTA was thus said to represent an important 'building block' in New Zealand’s growing East Asia trade and economic architecture.
The AANZFTA is said to facilitate the trade of goods, services and investments between the respective economies through the progressive elimination of barriers and the reduction of transaction costs. By 2020, all of New Zealand's tariffs on ASEAN products will be phased down to zero.
Chapter 13 of the agreement aims to develop cooperation and capacity building in IP law in the ASEAN region. The AANZFTA aims to protect IP rights across the ASEAN region in a consistent way, and give investors and traders increased confidence in operating within the region.
Like the China-New Zealand free trade agreement, AANZFTA reaffirms the parties' existing rights and obligations under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights. Each party is required to accord to nationals of other parties treatment no less favourable than that it accords to its own nationals with regard to the protection of IP rights. The AANZFTA also contains specific obligations on the protection and enforcement of IP rights. It requires greater transparency of IP laws and systems, and contains an obligation on parties to endeavour to make available on internet databases all pending and registered trademark rights in their respective jurisdictions. The AANZFTA also establishes a committee on intellectual property to monitor the implementation of the IP provisions.
Finally, the AANZFTA provides for an Economic Cooperation Work Programme. The programme covers eight areas, including conformity assessment procedures for the protection of IP rights (eg, direct training for IP examiners, IP judges, patent attorneys, academia and the business community, as well as study visits, policy discussions and seminaries).
The AANZFTA may enter into force in New Zealand as early as July 2009 and, in any event, no later than January 1 2010.

Kate Duckworth, Baldwins, Wellington

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