24 Mar 2017

PM wants 90% of exports under free trade deals

8:29 pm on 24 March 2017
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Photo: 123rf.com

About $90 million would be spent over the next four years to boost trade in Europe and Asia and for New Zealand to be more assertive when faced with non-tariff barriers.

New Zealand is looking at deals including with the Gulf States, the European Union and, eventually, the United Kingdom.

It is considering alternative options after US President Donald Trump pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

Mr English told a business audience in Auckland trade was vital to New Zealand's success.

PM Bill English following his announcement on a trade strategy 24 March 2017.

Bill English said trade was vital to NZ's success. Photo: RNZ / Chris Bramwell

"It is important that we remain an open and outward-facing country focused on creating and embracing trading opportunities."

Under the strategy, the government wants 90 percent of exports covered by free trade agreements by within the next 13 years, up from the present 53 percent.

New Zealand will also open a new embassy in Dublin, Ireland and a High Commission in Sri Lanka to help tap into those markets.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs would get about $60 million in new funding to grow the export market and target non-tariff barriers.

A ministerial advisory group would be established to help better inform the public about trade deals.

There would be a single point of contact to allow exporters to alert the Government to non-tariff barriers.

The Labour Party said the strategy was an attempt to hide the government's trade record failings.

Labour's trade spokesperson David Parker questioned whether the 90 percent target was achievable.

Trade Minister Todd McClay said the establishment of a new ministerial advisory group on trade was not an acknowledgement the Government lost the debate on the Trans-Pacific Trade deal.

The government won the TPP debate in the end because businesses and industry groups had asked for another deal to be put on the table, he said.

Mr McClay said trade was important for the country and New Zealanders, so a lot of money is being put into the new strategy.