NZ optimistic of free trade deal with US

SYDNEY • The United States has indicated it is open to a free trade agreement (FTA) with New Zealand, New Zealand's Trade Minister said yesterday.

Mr Todd McClay visited Washington for high-level trade talks with the administration of US President Donald Trump this week, meeting with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, newly appointed US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and other advisers to the President.

"I've welcomed their interest in an FTA as a demonstration of the good shape our trading relationship is in," Mr McClay said in a statement.

He said his centre-right government wants free trade agreements to cover 90 per cent of goods exported by 2030, up from just over half currently, and the US will be an important part of achieving that.

Two-way trade between the two countries reached US$16 billion (S$22 billion) last year, making the US New Zealand's third-largest individual trading partner, according to New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

New Zealand's US$180 billion economy depends on exports, and the country lobbied hard in favour of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. Alongside Japan and Australia, New Zealand is trying to negotiate a deal with the 11 remaining countries of the TPP after the US withdrew.

Mr Trump dumped membership of the TPP as one of his first acts in an "America First" policy aimed at moving manufacturing jobs back to the US. He said he would seek one-on-one trade deals with countries that would allow the US to quickly terminate them in 30 days "if somebody misbehaves".

Mr McClay said he had a constructive meeting with Mr Lighthizer and said Mr Ross indicated he saw no major impediments to a trade deal.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 19, 2017, with the headline 'NZ optimistic of free trade deal with US'. Print Edition | Subscribe