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UK, NZ agree to start regular trade talks

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 17/10/2016

Britain and New Zealand have agreed to set up regular trade policy talks to help push for greater global trade liberalisation and reform as Britain leaves the European Union.

Britain, which voted to leave the European bloc in June, is keen to court countries outside the EU on trade, but cannot formally agree to any deals until it has left the bloc, a process which will take at least two years from when it starts divorce talks.

"In leaving the EU, we have the opportunity to drive even greater openness and put Britain at the forefront of global trade," Trade Minister Liam Fox said in a statement after meeting his New Zealand counterpart Todd McClay.

"This new trade policy dialogue reflects a strong political commitment from New Zealand and the UK to take the lead in pushing for greater global trade liberalisation and reform and I look forward to working closely with them."

Mr McClay said he had received assurances from Dr Fox that New Zealand's trade interests will not be compromised by Brexit.

"The UK is a major trading partner for New Zealand, and we have signalled our interest in a free trade agreement with them when they are in a position to negotiate one independently of the European Union," he said.

"In the meantime, we hope this dialogue will allow us to develop a better understanding of one another's trade interests."

New Zealand, Australia, Canada and other members of the Commonwealth, whose members are mostly former British colonies, have been targeted by British officials as potential areas of growth.

British Prime Minister Theresa May, appointed leader shortly after the June referendum, has said she will trigger the formal divorce procedure -- Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty -- by the end of March next year.

Mr McClay is also scheduled to talk with EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom later this week.

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