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As New Zealand’s trade minister Damien O’Connor wings his way to Britain this week, commentators say they can only hope he secures a trade deal as good as the one Britain has just inked with Australia.
The two countries confirmed the deal late on Tuesday to shrink trade tariffs to zero over the next 15 years.
A final agreement in principle will be published in coming days.
Trade consultant and former diplomat Charles Finny said he needed to see the fine detail, but it did seem as though Australia had struck a quality deal in terms for both agriculture and people movement.
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A similar deal “would be very good news for our economy” and for New Zealanders working in Britain.
The stumbling block for New Zealand so far has been the UK’s offer on agricultural goods, which Finny said had not been regarded as “good enough, until now”.
Preliminary post-Brexit talks between then-Trade Minister David Parker and his UK counterpart International Trade Secretary Liz Truss, took place in 2019.
If New Zealand was able to achieve something close to it, it might be able to wrap up its own agreement within three to four months, he said.
O’Connor will meet with his counterpart UK Trade Minister Liz Truss this week before going on to Brussels to discuss a European agreement, in the wake of Britain’s exit from the EU.
New Zealand and Australia have been vying to secure Britain’s first post-Brexit deal, which is expected to serve as a template for others.
But Finny said New Zealand’s bargaining power was diluted by the fact that many of its tariffs were already low to non-existant.
However, the UK had a strategy. “It wants to be able to demonstrate to its people that it’s able to negotiate these deals and that there are options other than the EU. And I think it’s also recognising the leadership that New Zealand plays in this region, in the trade policy space.
”And a key goal for the UK is membership of the CPTPP.”
New Zealand is already a member of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trading pact between Canada, New Zealand, Australia and 8 other nations in the fast-growing Indo-Pacific region.
Finny said New Zealand had veto rights over CPTPP membership. “I can tell you, there is no way the UK is going to be coming into that agreement unless there is an acceptable bi-lateral outcome with New Zealand.”
New Zealand meat exporters are also hopeful of a substantial trade deal, to remove still-high beef and lamb tariffs in the UK.
Sheep meat in particular faces 50 per cent tariffs outside its traditional quota.
Federated Farmers president Andrew Hoggard agreed the Australian-UK pact was a good outcome.
“I think it shows a good level of ambition by the UK in terms of wanting to walk the walk, as well as talk the talk in terms of trade liberalisation.
“We’ll be expecting a similar level of ambition.”
The British government has portrayed the deal with Australia as a boon for British consumers wanting cheaper Australian meat and wine.
But UK farmers reacted with continued concern that it would undercut prices for locally-raised meat.
Media reports said the deal said would offer opportunities for Brits under age 35 to travel and work in Australia more freely.
Trade between the two countries is worth $16 billion (NZ$31.6b), with Australia’s top exporters to Britain being gold, wine and lead. It receives cars, medicaments and alcoholic beverages from Britain in return.