EU-NZ free trade deal on table

Prime Minister John Key has more good news for trade:

New Zealand and the European Union are to pursue a free trade pact – but don’t expect any action until at least 2015.

Prime Minister John Key made the announcement in The Hague after meeting European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso and European Council president Herman Van Rompuy. He described it as “quite an important” meeting

Two-way trade between New Zealand and the 28 members of the EU totals $16 billion a year.

Key said the EU has, for the first time, agreed to consider a free trade agreement.

But he admitted an ambitious EU-US trade deal, as well as a pact with Canada, will take priority for the Europeans. 

Further progress is also not possible until after European Parliament elections this year, but officials will undertake a scoping study.

“We are actually seeing progress and a breakthrough that historically hasn’t been a option available to us,” Key said.

The deal has the support of both the British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who he met on the sidelines of the major international summit. . .

Some of the credit for this must go to the good relationship between them and Key.

Two-way trade between New Zealand and the EU is worth about $16bn a year and has the potential to rise to $20bn by 2020. 

But exporters are hamstrung by hefty tariffs – including 8.2 per cent on kiwifruit. By comparison, Chile pays nothing because it is already signed up to an FTA with the 28-country bloc.

“It is easy to look at Europe and think Greece and Spain and some of the well pronounced debt problems,” Key said. “But sitting in amongst that are hundreds of millions of very wealthy consumers who earn a lot, spend a lot and fundamentally are the target market for what we sell.” . . .

A free trade deal with the EU won’t happen quickly but it would bring benefits for producers and their consumers who are paying far more than they need to for our produce because of tariffs.

The EU is our third biggest trading partner in spite of the handicaps we face from duties imposed on our products.

Spain is our biggest market for kiwifruit, even with that 8.2% tariff. The only other New Zealand produce I’ve seen there was apples.

It’s not hard to find New Zealand lamb in the UK and our venison in Germany.

A free trade deal would make it easier for our produce to compete on price and give people their more choice at a lower cost.

It would allow us to put our trading eggs in more baskets which would give better security and bargaining power.

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