25 Feb 2022

Trade minister heading to Europe in hopes of concluding free trade agreement negotiations

7:23 pm on 25 February 2022

Trade Minister Damien O'Connor will embark on a trip to Europe this weekend, where he plans to underline New Zealand's expectations for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the European Union (EU).

Damien O'Connor

Trade Minister Damien O'Connor will visit Belgium, Switzerland, the UK, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. (file images) Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Formal negotiations between New Zealand and the EU were launched in 2018, with 11 rounds of negotiations since.

O'Connor said he would work to progress towards conclusion of negotiations during his third trip to the continent.

He will visit Belgium and Switzerland and meet with Valdis Dombrovskis, the European Commission's executive vice-president and Trade Commissioner, and Janusz Wojciechowski, the EU Commissioner for Agriculture.

O'Connor will also meet with members of the European Parliament.

"During this visit, I will be underlining New Zealand's expectations, including with respect to goods market access, and our strong commitment to work with the EU to conclude the negotiations as soon as possible," O'Connor said.

In addition to the FTA meetings, O'Connor will meet with "key members" of the World Trade Organisation in Geneva to promote New Zealand's interests.

O'Connor will also travel to the UK to meet with Secretary for International Trade, Anne-Marie Trevelyan.

He hopes the final steps of the in-principle FTA with the UK will be finalised.

Finer details that need to be worked through often pop up in the later stages of trade agreements, O'Connor said.

"We'll be working through very positively on all of those and so we're hoping that we might be in a position ... to move forward, but at this stage there's still final details to be worked through. That's why I will be going and meeting with Secretary Trevelyan, and I'm optimistic.

"We just have to, you know, be mindful of all those last minute details that will need to be signed off."

O'Connor will then travel to the Middle East, where he will meet with the Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council in Saudi Arabia.

He will also lead New Zealand's delegation at the 8th Saudi-NZ Joint Ministerial Commission and meet with his Saudi ministerial counterparts.

O'Connor will then visit the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to lead the New Zealand delegation at the 8th UAE-NZ Joint Economic Committee, meet with his Emirati ministerial counterparts, and support New Zealand's participation at Expo 2020 Dubai.

Emirati and Whanganui river leaders perform a dawn ceremony ahead of the opening of Expo 2020 Dubai.

Emirati and Whanganui river leaders perform a dawn ceremony ahead of the opening of Expo 2020 Dubai. Photo: Supplied / NZ at Expo 2020

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