New Zealand, Australia to expand economic integration, share refugee burden

Source:Xinhua Published: 2013-2-9 10:09:28

The leaders of New Zealand and Australia Saturday announced a series of new measures to more closely align their two economies, and to tackle regional health and refugee issues.

The prime ministers of the two countries are meeting in the South Island ski resort of Queenstown for the annual Australia-New Zealand Leaders meeting, which takes on extra significance this year as the 30th anniversary of the trans-Tasman Closer Economic Relations (CER) free trade agreement.

The new package of measures, announced by New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, included a CER investment protocol to come into force next month and new retirement savings portability between the two countries from July.

They also announced new technologies to fast-track travel between the two countries and joint action to tackle the high cost of trans-Tasman cellphone roaming rates.

"These measures underline our on-going commitment to further integration of the Australian and New Zealand economies, which will boost economic growth, and help retain and create new, well paying jobs for Australians and New Zealanders," Key said in a statement.

Key also announced that New Zealand had agreed to resettle 150 refugees, who were subject to Australia's offshore processing legislation on Manus Island and Nauru.

"People smuggling has tragic consequences. It is a regional problem that requires regional cooperation," he said.

"These 150 refugees will form part of the quota of 750 refugees New Zealand already takes as part of its commitment to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). They will not be in addition to the quota. We are limiting this to 150 in order to still maintain a significant commitment to resettling refugees referred by the UNHCR."

They also agreed to provide 3 million NZ dollars ($2.5 million) over two years to support trans-Tasman collaboration to identify potential vaccines for rheumatic fever.

"The incidence of this disease is very high among Maori, Pacific Island, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, and an effective vaccine would be a major step forward for the health of these communities in both countries and across the Pacific," said Key.

Rheumatic fever could lead to long-term heart damage known as rheumatic heart disease.

In New Zealand, rheumatic heart disease kills about 150 people per year, while the prevalence rate of rheumatic fever among indigenous Australians was 25 times as high as for other Australians.

"This joint Australian and New Zealand Government investment will fund the evaluation of three potential vaccine candidates currently under development to identify one that could then proceed to clinical trials," Gillard said in a statement.

Posted in: Asia-Pacific, Economy

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