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McClay optimistic about US relationship

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 25/03/2017

New Zealand can work with the new administration in the US on trade, Trade Minister Todd McClay says.

"We're going to have to build the relationship, as we have every time there's been a change of president," he told Three's The Nation programme on Saturday.

Prime Minister Bill English announced Trade Agenda 2030 on Friday, which aims to have free trade agreements covering 90 per cent of New Zealand's goods exports, up from 53 per cent now.

Mr McClay said on Saturday that "America will have to be part of that".

"Now, we're going to have to work very hard to do so, and it's not going to be easy," he said.

A key figure will be Robert Lighthizer, known as an advocate for greater trade protection, who is the president's pick as US Trade Representative.

His nomination is still going through the confirmation process.

Mr Lighthizer told Congress last week that the US should have an "America first trade policy".

Speaking at his Senate confirmation hearing, Mr Lighthizer said, "we can do better in negotiating our trade agreements and stronger in enforcing our trade laws."

Mr McClay is hopeful the two can meet during the course of this coming month, but says it's up to the US process.

"He's said he'll meet, but he has to be confirmed so he formally has the job," Mr McClay says.

"It's important to us to continue to build that relationship and to reinforce it. It makes sense to get there when he's in place so I can talk to him," Mr McClay says.

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