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Trade advisory group meeting 'collegial'

NZN 8/05/2017 Paul McBeth

The first gathering of a ministerial advisory group set up to help drive the government's public outreach on international trade started with a meeting of the minds on trade's importance to New Zealand's economy, says Trade Minister Todd McClay.

The three-hour meeting of the collection of business, industry, union, iwi and non-government organisation leaders last Thursday was a collegial one, Mr McClay said.

It spanned a wide set of views that the Crown wants to draw on in achieving its goals set out in the newly minted trade strategy,

The group will meet at least twice a year, however Mr McClay said there will be discussions and debates in sub-committees between the formal gatherings.

"Everyone around the table agreed trade is important to New Zealand," Mr McClay told BusinessDesk on Friday. "This is a very important place to start."

New Zealand's general push for greater trade liberalisations comes as developed nations in the US and Europe have become more inclined to erect new trade barriers and a weakening domestic consensus that free trade and closer global integration is a strategy the country should pursue.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership trade and investment agreement, which Mr McClay hopes to salvage with the US's exit under President Donald Trump, became a catch-cry for anti-free trade campaigners who viewed it as undermining national sovereignty.

When announcing the new trade strategy in March, Prime Minister Bill English said some of that opposition was probably because governments had done a poor job explaining the benefits of free trade.

The ministerial advisory group was set up to ensure a broad group of organisations could consult on trade issues in an effort to better inform the wider public.

The new trade strategy has an overarching goal of expanding free trade deals to cover 90 per cent of the country's exported goods.

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