23 Aug 2021

UK releases NZ free trade negotiation details as agreement nears

9:54 pm on 23 August 2021

A free trade deal with the United Kingdom is getting closer, with both sides set to sign an agreement in principle by the end of the month.

UK international trade secretary Liz Truss is expected to approach NZ about joining the CPTPP tomorrow.

Britain trade secretary Liz Truss (pictured, file image) said teams were working around the clock to get the deal done in the coming weeks. Photo: Supplied/ UK Department for International Trade

The UK government has released more details of how negotiations have been progressing.

Tariffs on exports of honey and apples to the UK would be slashed and wine which faces tariffs of up to 20 pence per bottle would also be expected to be cut.

In return tariffs on British gin, chocolate, clothing and cars we import would be dropped.

Britain trade secretary Liz Truss said teams were working around the clock to get the deal done in the coming weeks.

"We are both big fans of each other's high-quality products, so this could be a huge boost that allows British shoppers to enjoy lower prices and British exports to be even more competitive," Truss said.

"New Zealand and the UK are natural partners united by modern values. An agreement would reflect those ideals and is a win-win for both countries."

The deal would also be an important step towards the UK's accession to CPTPP.

"Trade between the two countries was worth £2.3 billion last year and would be expected to increase following a deal," Truss said.

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor visits Canterbury to assess damage after days of flooding and heavy rain.

Damien O'Connor. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

New Zealand minister for trade and export growth Damien O'Connor said it was pleasing to see public statements made by the UK and it indicated their resolve in progressing a free trade agreement with New Zealand.

"We continue to be ambitious and we're optimistic of negotiating a high quality FTA with a traditional and trusted trading partner," O'Connor said.

"Our negotiators have been working around the clock to reach the shared objective of an FTA agreement in principle by the end of August."

One of the main beneficiaries from a free-trade deal would be the red meat sector which has been calling for easier access to the UK for some time - but there was no mention of the industry in the latest update.

New Zealand International Business forum executive director Stephen Jacobi said the glaring omission was no mistake.

"Beef, lamb and dairy are the three most sensitive parts of the negotiation, it's great the UK government is preparing their public for an ambitious outcome but the outcome has to speak to our major items of trade interest other wise there's not point in doing a deal," Jacobi said.

"I fully encourage our government to be as far leaning as they possibly can on those areas to clinch this deal. It would be absolutely ridiculous if we were to enter into an FTA with the UK that did not put forward the prospect of free trade, zero tariffs in lamb and beef and dairy within a reasonable timeframe."

UK farmers have raised concerns that a free trade deal could undercut them.

Jacobi said that was unlikely to happen.

"The British agricultural sector has been mollycoddled for the last 50 years under the Common Agricultural Policy of the EU, their farmers are not used to the cold winds of competition.

"But we are a counter seasonal producer at the best of times and we're simply not able to overrun their markets."

If the government could not negotiate the best outcome for New Zealand they should not sign the agreement in principle at the end of the month just because they said they would, Jacobi said.

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