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Government keen on trade deal with US

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 24/01/2017 Sean Martin

Trade Minister Todd McClay is going to Washington to sound out the possibility of a free trade agreement with the United States.

That's the government's response to President Donald Trump signing an executive order on Tuesday to pull the US out of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership, and his indication that bilateral deals will be sought instead.

Prime Minister Bill English says Mr Trump's decision to pull the plug on the TPP wasn't a surprise, but it's still disappointing for New Zealand.

"New Zealand has always been interested in close trade ties with the United States, whether through agreements like the TPP or bilateral deals," he said at his post-cabinet press conference.

"I have asked Todd McClay to travel to the US to meet with the new US Trade Representative, once they are confirmed."

However, Mr English is cautious about the prospects given Mr Trump's "America first" position in any trade agreements.

"They've made it clear they expect America to come out of any deal ahead of the other partner," he said.

"They're fulfilling political undertakings they have made."

Mr English doesn't expect a free trade agreement with New Zealand to be a priority for the US.

"As one of the smaller ones I suppose we would be down the list - but easier to deal with than some of the others."

Also on Mr McClay's agenda in the coming months will be the attempts that are likely to be made by other TPP countries to save the agreement and implement it without the US.

"A number of other TPP countries have expressed a strong commitment to it and I expect ministers to meet over the next few months to consider possible next steps," Mr English said.

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