23 Apr 2018

Watch: Paula Bennett on Commonwealth free trade agreement idea

9:04 am on 23 April 2018

National seems less than enthused about the possibility of a 53-nation Commonwealth free trade agreement coming together anytime soon.

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters has been talking up the idea in London at the weekend after he and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern attended the Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) meeting.

New Zealand is already working on trade agreements with Britain and the European Union as Brexit looms, but Mr Peters said there was a lot of excitement at CHOGM about a possible free trade agreement between all the commonwealth nations.

He said leaders want to get started on the deal before the UK leaves the EU next March.

National's deputy leader, Paula Bennett, has told Morning Report Mr Peters' comments could harm more important trade talks, already underway with the European Union.

She described references by the Minister of Foreign Affairs to the future chances of a free trade deal with North Korea as "insane".

Mr Peters mentioned both Russia and North Korea as future possibilities, after the notion of a Commonwealth free trade agreement was mooted.

She says she had heard the EU and the UK were not happy with Mr Peters, including Russia on his trade wish list.

"This is just insane... Here we are making real progress in two areas that would make a fundamental difference to New Zealand, we have a Foreign Affairs minister who actually has experience in the job, he knows that his words matter.

"So why would you even be thinking about upsetting our potential partners in a trade that's going to make a huge difference for New Zealand?"

National Party trade spokesperson Todd McClay said he was hopeful of Commonwealth discussions, but was wary of so many players being involved.

"I'm just a bit cautious around how much progress could be made Commonwealth-wide, because the more parties you put around a table the greater the challenges. We saw that with TPP," he said.

National deputy leader Paula Bennett joins us is in the Auckland studio to give her thoughts on the idea.

Watch Mrs Bennett on Morning Report: