Trans-Tasman agreement follows historic industry meeting

20 Apr 2004

The plantation forest and wood products industries on both sides of the Tasman have concluded their first ever joint meeting, with an agreement to co-operate in the fields of international trade, climate change, and research.

The inaugural Trans-Tasman Forest and Wood Products Forum, held in Canberra today, involved industry leaders from the newly formed Australian Plantation and Paper Products Industry Association (A3P) and the New Zealand Forest Industries Council.

A3P Chairman, Nick Roberts, said the forum began the process of examining mutual interests in the areas of trade, climate change, and research.

"The next step will be to extend our initial discussions into specific projects and meet again in six months' time to review progress,
Mr Roberts said.

New Zealand Forest Industries Council Chairman Devon McLean said it made sense for the industries to work together.

"Our two industries are increasingly integrated. We share a common resource in radiata pine which we must protect and promote more aggressively on the world stage," Mr McLean said.

"Australia is also New Zealand's largest market. We need to develop the market further in the interests of both our industries."

The two industries have agreed to work together in respect of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations.

"Freeing up world trade, bringing down tariff and non-tariff barriers and putting in place better trade rules are key to the future success of our two industries," Mr Roberts said.

"Our joint position will be presented to the Australian and New Zealand Trade Ministers at their annual meeting in New Zealand in August," he said.

"The inclusion of specific international trade concerns of the wood and paper industries in the agenda for the annual CER Business Dialogue gives us an opportunity to ensure that both Australian and New Zealand trade negotiators are focused on our needs," Mr McLean said.

Today's Canberra forum also received a detailed briefing on the planned joint venture between New Zealand’s Forest Research and Australia's CSIRO.

"The strong and growing research links between New Zealand and Australia are fully indicative of this new Trans-Tasman dimension," forum participant and Forest Research Chief Executive, Bryce Heard said.

"The FR-CSIRO joint venture should position both providers to enhance their capacity to leverage government and industry funding in both countries and provide market-focused research outcomes which advance both industries' interests," Mr Heard said.

Forum participants also examined climate change policies in Australia and New Zealand.

"While our respective governments have taken different approaches to the Kyoto Protocol, it is clear that plantation forestry and wood processing are part of the solution to the problem of combating climate change. We have agreed to share information about our domestic policies, develop common positions on international issues and promote the contribution of forestry and wood processing to climate change policy," Mr Roberts said.

Mr McLean noted that the pulp and paper sector was a higher user of energy and that there was mutual interest in developing technologies which led to more cost effective greenhouse gas mitigation.

A3P Chief Executive, Belinda Robinson and NZFIC Chief Executive, Stephen Jacobi will follow up the agreed outcomes of the forum.