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NZ could soon have EU trade agreement

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 10/01/2017

Bill English has used his first international trip as prime minister to meet with European Union leaders who believe a free-trade agreement between the regions could be in place within three years.

After a travel delay caused by snow, Mr English on Tuesday sat down with European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels to discuss trade, Brexit, the refugee crisis and security.

The meeting revealed formal negotiations on a free-trade agreement with New Zealand, one of only six World Trade Organisation countries without an EU trade agreement, could begin soon.

"I thank the President (Juncker) for his leadership and for the commission's clear willingness to remain open for business on trade agreement despite some of the political challenges that go with it," Mr English told reporters, according to Fairfax.

Free-trade agreements with the EU usually take between five and 10 years to complete but it's hoped an agreement with New Zealand could be completed much quicker.

"I do think two or three years would be enough because we have very similar situations. We are friends, we are allies. We know each other and I think this could be done in a shorter period of time than it is usually done," Mr Tusk said.

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