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International Trade Secretary Liz Truss this morning held a phone call with her New Zealand counterpart to try and add fresh momentum to negotiations after talks stalled. The UK was hoping talks could have been wrapped up by Easter but the pace of progress has since slowed.
Those close to the talks described the phone call between Ms Truss and New Zealand Minister for Trade and Export Growth Damien O’Connor as “positive”.
Officials say the talks will intensify with the chief negotiators meeting on a monthly basis.
The next round of formal negotiations have been set for the start of June, with a further round of talks already scheduled for in July.
Officials said both sides “committed to accelerating the process” in the phone call and were hopeful of finalising an agreement in the coming months.
Ms Truss said following the talks: “Great to speak with Damien O’Connor this morning.
“We discussed: the good progress we’re making towards a UK-NZ trade deal, intensifying talks in the coming months, how our deal will support jobs and boost key industries like services.”
It is hoped the deal when finalised will open more opportunities for services, digital trade and for the green economy.
Agreeing a free trade deal with New Zealand will also help to ease the UK’s accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), one of the trade priorities of Boris Johnson’s Government.
The CPTPP is made up of 11 countries and is one of the fastest free-trade agreement areas in the world.
Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam are all members of the bloc.
The UK has been understood to have been playing Australia and New Zealand off one another, hoping progress being made with the one will spur on the other to try and clinch a deal first.
The country’s trade minister was in London last month for face-to-face talks in which a “major breakthrough” was achieved.
Britain and Australia are now hoping to finalise a trade deal in June.
Ms Truss said at the time: “This is a deal that will deliver for Britain and all parts of our economy.
“It is a win-win for both nations.
“It is a fundamentally liberalising agreement that will support jobs across the country and help us emerge stronger from the pandemic, strengthening ties between two democracies who share a fierce belief in freedom, enterprise and fair play.”
It is thought the free trade agreement with Australia will increase UK exports by up to £900million.
Meanwhile, Britain already does £2.9billion of trade with New Zealand each year with a pact likely to help boost exports.