Trade Minister Todd McClay will today meet Lord Mark Price, British Trade Minister, to discuss the timer tabling of New Zealand’s free trade agreement negotiations with Britain once that country has left the EU.
Before being appointed to the House of Lords, Price’s business background was in supermarkets so he should have a good understanding of New Zealand’s potential issues.
The meeting comes as the Minister appears to be setting a fast pace trying to get free trade agreements over the line as part of the Government’s announcement in March of its Trade Agenda 2030 which has a target of achieving Free Trade coverage for 90 per cent of our goods exports by 2030.
Currently, only 53% of our exports are covered by trade agreements.
McClay is just back from Colombo where he confirmed that New Zealand was one of four countries now on track to complete a free trade agreement with the Pacific Alliance – Mexico, Peru, Colombia and Chile – a trading group which together is the eight largest economy in the world.
New Zealand will be joined by three other TPP countries; Singapore, Canada and Australia.
Mexico will be a prime target for New Zealand exporters. It imports over $US1 billion of skim milk powder and cheese each year from the US and McClay believes that a free trade agreement would provide a level playing field for New Zealand exporters with their US counterparts.
McClay says the potential in Mexico is “amazing”.
“To give you an example they export two billion avocados to the US every year – but they also import some from New Zealand because ours are different and seasonally compatible,” he told POLITIK.
Chile and New Zealand are already linked by the P4 agreement which includes Singapore and Brunei and which in many ways was the genesis of the TPP.
Since it came into force in 2006 New Zealand has seen its exports to Chile grow to $145 million, exports to Singapore have doubled to more than $1 billion, and exports to Brunei although still modest, have more than doubled.
The agreement also opens up opportunities in investment and services.
McClay obviously sees that as a model for the agreement with the Pacific Alliance.
“I think we need to realise these are countries with big populations which are transforming their economies and opening up and Kiwi businesses should be able to do very well if we can get the balance of this trade deal right
McClay says New Zealand expects to be the first cab off the rank with the UK for a free trade agreement when they are able to negotiate.
Ironically those negotiations at the British end will be under the management of one of New Zealand’s foremost trade negotiators, Crawford Falconer, who has been appointed Second Secretary in the UK Department of International Trade to oversee the country’s post-Brexit trade negotiations.
McClay said today’s meeting was an opportunity to remind price that New Zealand would be ready to launch its negotiations as soon as Brexit was complete and to conclude quite quickly.
“I want to talk to him about the timeframes and see where we go from there.”
Meanwhile, New Zealand’s relationship with the EU continues to deepen.
The EU and New Zealand signed an Agreement on Cooperation in Customs Matters on Tuesday.
The agreement will promote modern procedures to make it easier to get goods through customs while helping stop harmful or illegal goods reaching the European market.
And in what is seen as potentially a highly significant move because it moves the relationship with the EU beyond being simply about trade, two statisticians from the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre are in Wellington.
The pair, Gianluca Mazzarella and Stefano Verzillo will use their time with Statistics NZ and agencies like the Ministry of Education to demonstrate to learn how New Zealand uses administrative data to drive policy-making.
At the same time, the Research Centre will help New Zealand process the data that it is using to deliver the Social Investment programme for social policy delivery.