British High Commissioner to New Zealand Laura Clarke says the United Kingdom and New Zealand are committed to accelerating the process of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
The UK is keen to have FTAs with 80 percent of its current trading partners as part of its post-Brexit strategy, with its sights also set on joining the Trans-Pacific partnership (CPTPP).
Clarke told Morning Report that Minister for Trade and Export Growth Damien O’Connor and the UK’s Secretary of State for International Trade spoke of wanting to make progress “as fast as we can”.
“Actually to have got as far as we have after just four rounds is actually pretty good going,” she said, adding that the next round of talks were scheduled for June and July.
“We’ve done a lot already on the UK-New Zealand one, we’ve agreed on the overall architecture of the agreement, we’ve provisionally closed a number of chapters and we’ve set out quite an ambitious timetable to finalise the agreement.
“We put through a revised market access offer [for agriculture goods] ahead of the fourth round, which was commercially very meaningful, of course New Zealand will always want more, and I think it remains a whole piece negotiation as well, because from our perspective we’re keen to see greater progress on services and much more on that approach.
“It looks like wine will do well, I think it will be good for the wellbeing of all New Zealanders if reduce tariffs on gin and whisky as well.”
British High Commissioner to New Zealand Laura Clarke
Clarke said the UK would also be hoping to make gains from an agreement on professional services, like finance, architecture, and digital trade.
“There’s really interesting work we can do on the services side and on people as well, that also speaks to the language similarities, the cultural similarities and the people connections between our countries.”
Another area she noted would be “how you use trade to advance other objectives”, for example, to advance and focus on sustainability and environmental issues, and to tackle inequalities, including racial, regional and gender ones.
“So for example, there’s going to be a chapter in our trade agreement on women in trade.”
The UK is also looking to jump onboard the CPTPP, with a notification of intent to apply being submitted to New Zealand – as the depository state for the partnership – a couple of months ago.
Clarke said the partnership members would get together, consider how to approach it, and were then likely to set up a concession working group to consider the application.
Although New Zealand’s trade profile heavily focuses on Asia, Clarke said the country would benefit from diversifying its partners, especially in this day and age.
“We never want to put all our eggs in one basket,” she said.
“In a way, New Zealand had this back in the day when the UK was its number one trade partner … you want to be resilient against geopolitical changes, economic changes and therefore if something goes wrong with one part of the world or in one relationship, you’re much more resilient in terms of economic impact.”