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NZ, Aust to work together on free trade

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 17/02/2017 Karen Sweeney

New Zealand and Australia will present a united front in the hope of continuing to expand free trade with a Trans Pacific Partnership style agreement without the US, the leaders say.

Prime Minister Bill English and his Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull cemented their commitment in trans-Tasman leader meetings in Queenstown during the last two days.

Before returning to Australia on Saturday morning after his brief 23-hour trip, Mr Turnbull said one of the intentions of the TPP was to continue to grow it.

"So from New Zealand and Australia's point of view as we said yesterday, we believe free trade and open markets are absolutely critical to continued economic growth," he said.

"Trade means jobs. Bill and I are absolutely on the same page there. You've got to be able to access the whole global market."

On Friday the two PMs held their first trans-Tasman catch-up since Mr English became leader.

Finance Minister Steven Joyce and Economic Development Minister Simon Bridges also joined Australian Treasurer Scott Morrison and Industries Minister Arthur Sinodinos for economic discussions.

"There is a lot of uncertainty around trade but I think in Australia and New Zealand what we have is confidence in the argument and also a set of relationships with the TPP countries which I think we could work on turning into support for further progress," Mr English said after the meetings.

Both nations hope to work with the 11 nations left in the agreement, after the official withdrawal of the US this month, to come up with a suitable alternative.

Mr Turnbull said the TPP's intention was to later include countries like Indonesia and China, hinting at the possible inclusion of those nations in a new agreement.

He cautioned against protectionism, and throwing up walls to stop trade in response to rapid economic and technological change.

"In my view and I know Bill's position too is that that is absolutely the wrong thing to do," he said.

"Free trade, more trade means more jobs, means more growth ... we're pursuing our rational, national self-interest in promoting trade."

The remaining TPP nations also include Brueni, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru and Singapore.

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