New Zealand and the European Union have taken one more step towards a free trade deal.
The Trade Minister Todd McClay and his EU counterpart Cecelia Malmstrom have agreed to complete joint scoping discussions.
Those discussions look at the broader bi-lateral and economic relationship, as well as examining the areas that could be covered in a trade deal.
This was a significant milestone after nearly two years of negotiating, Mr McClay said.
New Zealand and the EU agreed in October 2015 to begin talks on a free trade deal.
In January, Prime Minister Bill English met with the President of European Council, Donald Tusk.
Mr Tusk said a free trade agreement would have economic benefits for both sides, boosting sustainable growth, investment and job creation.
The EU is New Zealand's third largest trading partner, and it is the world's second-largest economic entity.
Commissioner Malmstrom had accepted an invitation to visit New Zealand later this year, Mr McClay said.