26 Oct 2016

NZ fallout likely if EU-Canada trade talks collapse

6:03 am on 26 October 2016

New Zealand could be a casualty if the European Union's trade pact with Canada collapses, a dairy industry lobby group says.

An aerial view of a container ship carrying exports (file)

If the Ceta deal falls over, free trade advocates fear it could jeopardise New Zealand's chances of securing a deal with the EU. Photo: 123RF

The future of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (Ceta) is hanging by a thread after Belgium announced it couldn't sign the treaty because of opposition from regional parliaments.

If it does fall over, free trade advocates fear it could jeopardise this country's chances of securing a deal with the EU.

"It's been said by a number of commentators that if Canada and the European Union can't do a trade deal, well, nobody can," Dairy Companies Association chair Malcolm Bailey said.

"I'd like to think that this deal will remain viable, but clearly if this deal falls over it doesn't bode well for New Zealand and an European Union trade agreement."

Despite the Belgian stalemate, the EU and Canada still hope to sign the agreement later this week.

International Business Forum executive director Stephen Jacobi said the EU's credibility was on the line.

"This is more than just a hiccup I believe. This is a major blow to the EU's ability to conclude FTAs (free trade agreements). It doesn't mean they can't do FTA's in the future, but it will mean that they have to be done a little differently."

New Zealand hopes to start talks with the EU next year and Trade Minister Todd McClay remains optimistic that will happen.

"I met with the EU Trade Commissioner on Friday of last week in Oslo and she confirmed to me that the EU-NZ FTA is on track for launch next year, and that both sides will continue to work together to make sure that happens."

"And then it will be some years before we conclude. It's my expectation that whatever the European Union has to do to sort this mess out, they'll do so."

But support for the current batch of trade pacts , including the TPP and its trans-Atlantic cousin, TTIP, appears lukewarm at best.

Opponents argue a major overhaul of such deals is needed to ensure that those at the bottom benefit, and that they don't undermine a country's right to determine what's best for their citizens.

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