NZPA | 10 May 2007
Goff presses for free trade agreement with US
Trade Minister Phil Goff says New Zealand has to "hang in there" in its desire to forge a free trade agreement with the United States.
The US administration isn’t closed to the idea of an FTA with New Zealand, but has said it prefers to work through its trade and investment framework agreement to further deepen the relationship.
Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said today the US government was not looking at an FTA with New Zealand at present, but concentrating on getting a deal with South Korea ratified.
But he said the talks in March between Prime Minister Helen Clark and US President George W Bush had been excellent.
"Relations with New Zealand are going along really well," he said.
Mr Goff pushed New Zealand’s cause in talks with US Trade Representative Susan Schwab this morning, saying an FTA was the next logical step in a relationship reinvigorated by the talks between Miss Clark and Mr Bush.
Mr Goff said the first obstacle to an NZ-US FTA was that the US could not progress deals until it had a new Trade Promotion Authority.
"The US can’t be in a position of drawing up lists in advance of that but I detected a real warmth towards New Zealand’s position and a positive response to the Prime Minister’s visit and I think these particular things advance New Zealand’s case," Mr Goff said.
While FTAs were about trade, they were influenced by the atmosphere that surrounded the relationship between the countries involved.
"I think it’s certainly a matter of hanging in there. It’s our desire to have an FTA and it is not going to go away. We are going to persist in that process, but we think it is a logical thing for two countries who are like-minded in trade liberalisation to actually do."
Looking to the G4 negotiations involving the US, the European Union, India and Brazil, Mr Goff urged the US to be bold in its attitude to agricultural reform.
He said New Zealand was pressing for significant movement in reducing domestic subsidies.
"We are taking a reasonably high moral ground in saying don’t do it for us, don’t do it for the round, do it for yourself. It is not just our message to the US, but also to Europe, Korea and Japan."
He said what surprised him in this Doha round was that countries contemplating cutting subsidies and tariff protection thought others should pay them for it, in terms of trade concessions.
"New Zealand took this step unilaterally, not in order to benefit others, but because we knew that these actions would provide major benefits for the productivity, innovation, adaptation and market-responsiveness of our agriculture and manufacturing," he told the US Chamber of Commerce today.
Mr Goff spoke for two hours this morning with Ms Schwab, getting a briefing on the G4 negotiations.
"Our discussions were frank and we are like-minded in most areas," he said.