You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Russia willing to restart free-trade talks

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 29/03/2017 Paul McBeth

Russia is willing to restart free trade talks with New Zealand that were halted after the annexation of the Crimean peninsula.

But Trade Minister Todd McClay says it is too soon to resume negotiations with the world's 12th-biggest economy.

Last week Prime Minister Bill English released New Zealand's refreshed trade strategy, which seeks to have 90 per cent of goods exports covered by a free trade agreement within 13 years, and cited potentially concluding free trade talks with Russia and its Customs Union partners among initiatives to meet that target.

In 2014, New Zealand suspended free trade negotiations with Russia and its customs union partners Belarus and Kazakhstan over the conflict in the Crimean peninsula, having almost finalised a free trade agreement after four years of talks.

Former Prime Minister John Key last year told Russian president Vladimir Putin at the Apec meeting in Lima, Peru that New Zealand was willing to resume trade talks, but only on a timetable allowed by European nations' attitude to the Ukraine conflict.

"The reference to Russia as a 'potential agreement' under the 'existing agenda of FTA negotiations to complete' reflects the fact FTA negotiations with Russia and its customs union partners have been suspended since 2014," Mr McClay said in an emailed statement.

"Any future decision to re-open negotiations would have to take account of a range of factors."

He later told TVNZ's Q&A programme that New Zealand wouldn't pursue a deal while US and European Union sanctions remain in place.

But he hinted at a thaw at some stage, saying "we keep in touch with the Russian government".

Russian Embassy press secretary Artur Zakaev said while there hasn't been any official re-engagement on FTA talks, Russia is ready to address the "few details that remained unsolved".

"In case the approach of the New Zealand authorities to FTA changes, Russia along with the Eurasian Economic Union will be ready to renew the negotiations," Mr Zakaev said.

New Zealand exports butter and dairy spreads, mutton and lamb, and malt extract to Russia, and imports crude oil, potassium fertilisers and copper.

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon