12 Sep 2016

NZ trade minister cancels trip after Fiji trade withdrawal

7:18 am on 12 September 2016

New Zealand's trade minister has cancelled a planned visit to Fiji to discuss the proposed PACER-Plus free trade agreement.

Todd McClay was due to travel to the country today for bilateral discussions, after the legal text of the agreement was agreed to last month.

But on Friday, Fiji's trade minister said his country was withdrawing from negotiations, citing inflexibility from New Zealand and Australia.

Mr McClay says he doesn't believe that's a fair reflection of the agreement, and he will delay travel until issues have been resolved.

Fiji's withdrawal would mean the Pacific two largest economies outside of New Zealand and Australia - Fiji and Papua New Guinea - would not be included in any deal.

However, the chief trade advisor for the Pacific Island countries, Edwini Kessie, remains optimistic.

Chief Trade Advisor, Edwini Kessie.

Chief Trade Advisor, Edwini Kessie. Photo: rnzi / alex perrottet

He said he believed an agreement can be reached to keep Fiji in the deal.

"Well as we say in trade negotiations, 'nothing is agreed until everything is agreed'," Mr Kessie said.

"So, until it is formally signed it will be within the right of any party to request the others to revisit some issues. With flexibility on both sides we should be able to come to an agreement on this issue."