Trade Minister Damien O’Connor has returned from a two-week trip to the US and the EU and says good progress has been made in trade negotiations.
The main topic of interest of the trip was the progress of free trade negotiations with the EU.
O’Connor said a deal would be great for New Zealand and he would like to see a deal in principle by the end of the year.
“Look, it’s a market of 450 million people. They are all demanding customers of great value both for service, technology and of course for our traditional meat, dairy and mutton products. So, you know, it’s been a valuable market and will be in the future. “
A sensitive issue in the discussions has been the EU’s desire to protect more than 2,000 “geographical indications” of food and drink.
The dairy industry here has said it is willing to change the labeling of some products to clearly indicate the country of origin – but they are unwilling to stop using cheese names like feta and gruyere.
O’Connor said changes are likely to need to be made – but wouldn’t say how far they would go.
“The transition period and, and how much they have to change ultimately will be part of the final deal and, and I guess the ability of exporters to adapt to that. I think the dairy industry realizes that. But overall, we ‘I want to make sure that the trade deal offers more opportunities for the New Zealand dairy industry, even with changes that may be needed.’
Abroad, O’Connor was able to speak with UK Secretary of State for International Trade Anne-Marie Trevelyan about the ongoing UK-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement.
The UK has indicated its readiness to eliminate tariffs on New Zealand honey, wine and apples.
Access for New Zealand dairy and red meat is more controversial.
An agreement in principle was due to be signed by the end of August – O’Connor said things always popped up at the last minute, so things took longer than expected.
“We have made good progress, it has been a very short timeframe on the substantive issue in a potentially extremely valuable trade deal with a trusted partner.
“But we have solved some of the tricky issues, and we are confident that we can announce something in the coming weeks.”