23 Feb 2024

Finance Minister Nicola Willis talks Single Economic Market with Australian counterpart

9:31 am on 23 February 2024
Finance Minister Nicola Willis and Australian Treasurer Jim Chalmers.

Finance Minister Nicola Willis and Australian Treasurer Jim Chalmers. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver, AFP / Punit Paranjpe

Finance Minister Nicola Willis and her Australian counterpart have agreed to work on tackling shared economic and regional challenges in the region.

Willis travelled to Sydney on Thursday for her first in-person meeting with Jim Chalmers.

In a statement on Thursday, Willis said she shared the government's ambitions to deepen investment links and grow trade between the two countries, with a particular focus on the Single Economic Market (SEM).

"This includes identifying and improving regulations standing in the way of the uptake of lower emissions technology and identifying options to strengthen regulatory coherence to support an efficient transition to net zero.

"Working together to tackle the challenges of clean energy transformation is critical if both our nations are to maximise the substantial benefits of the transition to net zero."

She told Morning Report an example of that would be aligning regulations on reducing climate change emissions to make it easier for investing businesses.

"So if you think about some of the new technologies that are coming on, whether that's offshore wind, whether that's floating solar, whether that's hydrogen, these present new regulatory challenges because these are new technologies.

"Rather than us reinventing the wheel and coming up with bespoke regulatory approaches in Australia and New Zealand, the opportunity is to work together to come up with a regime so it's the same here as it is in Australia and that makes it easier for anyone wanting to invest in those technologies."

With a large number of New Zealanders living in Australia, strengthening the economic and trade relationship would be beneficial for Kiwis, she said.

While she acknowledged seeing skilled people leave the country was worrying, she said it was the government's mission to make New Zealand a place where people wanted to invest their life.

"It's a sign of success if people are choosing to stay in New Zealand and ultimately the mission of our government is to make our economy stronger so that people look at New Zealand, they say 'well I've got great opportunities here, there's good jobs, they're well paying, I can have a high standard of living, good public services'."

Willis said they also talked about banking challenges facing the Pacific.

"New Zealand and Australia are committed to stopping the decline of correspondent banking relationships in the Pacific, including through the upcoming Pacific Banking Forum," she said.

"Treasurer Chalmers and I agreed to collaborate on opportunities to support ongoing efforts improving the operating environment for financial services in the region."

Chalmers released a statement on Thursday with a similar sentiment, saying they were working on "modernising" the SEM and "partnering on the big opportunities on offer in the transformation to cleaner, cheaper energy".

"I look forward to advancing this work with Minister Willis, to strengthen our economic ties as we seek to maximise the opportunities of the special relationship we share with New Zealand."

The SEM agenda builds on the Closer Economic Relations agreement by "identifying innovative, low-cost actions to reduce discrimination and costs arising from different, conflicting or duplicate regulations or institutions in either country", according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade website.

Chalmers and Willis confirmed they would meet again for the Australia-New Zealand Climate and Finance 2+2 Dialogue, to be held in Australia mid-2024.

Last year, Australia and New Zealand held the climate-finance summit for the first time, and agreed then to hold it annually.

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