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NZ trade minister heads to Europe

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 28/05/2016
Todd McClay © Fiona Goodall/Getty Images Todd McClay

Trade Minister Todd McClay is off to Europe to lobby for a free-trade deal.

Mr McClay will attend the annual ministerial council meeting of the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and will visit counterparts in Italy, Greece, France, Austria and Slovakia.

He'll be asking them to support the launch of negotiations for a free-trade agreement (FTA) between New Zealand and the EU.

"The European Union is an important partner for New Zealand and an EU-NZ FTA will grow our trade and investment relationship to complement the strong political and development relationship we already enjoy," he said on Saturday.

In 2015, Prime Minister John Key, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk agreed to start discussions on a EU-NZ FTA.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade says several steps have to take place before negotiations start and this may not be until early 2017.

Discussions will define the scope and overall approach of negotiations and there has to be an impact assessment. Also, before negotiations start directives are agreed.

New Zealand is one of only six WTO members without an EU FTA in place or under negotiation and this puts New Zealand at a competitive disadvantage in the EU market.

The EU is New Zealand's third-largest trading partner, with two-way trade valued at $19.6 billion in goods and services in the year to June 2015.

Mr McClay will also participate in discussions around the future role of the WTO.

He's in favour of greater consideration of e-commerce and services and is against domestic support for agriculture trade.

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