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English heads home after Merkel meeting

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 16/01/2017

Bill English is headed back to New Zealand after wrapping up a series of high-level trade talks across Europe and the UK, ending with a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The meeting in Berlin on Monday came at the end of a long week of travel for the prime minister, who was on his first international trip since taking over the top job.

A free trade agreement with the European Union dominated discussions after EU leaders indicated their willingness to begin negotiations this year, hopeful of having a formal agreement in place within two to three years.

Ms Merkel told reporters after her meeting with Mr English that she backs a quick agreement with New Zealand and will push the other 27 member nations of the EU to work towards it.

The pair also discussed immigration and Germany's controversial open-door policy, though Ms Merkel says there's no intention to link Germany and New Zealand in any refugee policies.

Talk also turned to US President-elect Donald Trump and his intention to formally withdraw America from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement when he is sworn in on Friday.

Mr English says New Zealand will look at other ways of engaging with the US if Mr Trump does back out.

The international agreement requires ratification by the US in order to come into force.

The meeting with Ms Merkel came after earlier meetings with British Prime Minister Theresa May, Belgium's Prime Minister Charles Michel, European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

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