NBR | 4 May 2015
New Zealand next cab off the rank to close Gulf states FTA - Key
New Zealand should be the next cab off the rank in securing a long-awaited free-trade agreement with the Gulf Cooperation Council, with Prime Minister John Key "much more positive" about finalising a deal after his recent trip to the region.
Mr Key told his regular post-cabinet press conference most of the Gulf states were positive about signing off on the deal, although Saudi Arabia was a little more cautious. The Gulf states recently completed a FTA with Singapore, and Mr Key said New Zealand should be next on the list.
"The impression we got from all of them is that New Zealand is the next cab off the rank," Key said. "We pushed as hard as we practically could with the Saudis – the others were effusive in their praise of why it should happen, the Saudis were a little more guarded but, I wouldn’t take that as negative, I just think that’s a slightly different cultural way of dealing with it."
Negotiations for an FTA with Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar, who collectively make up the Gulf Cooperation Council, concluded in 2009, though a final signing of a deal was delayed by concerns over the way a major Saudi investor was treated when New Zealand blocked exports of livestock for slaughter.
Mr Key said that issue has been dealt with, and that the investor was comfortable with New Zealand’s position that it would only allow exports of for breeding stock.
Saudi Arabia is "always a bit more cautious, so we’ve talked through what the next steps are and there’s a meeting taking place some time later in the year," Mr Key said. "Nothing was clearly identified (as a sticking point), really it’s just about whether they want to take the next step."
New Zealand faces tariffs of about 5% in the Gulf states, and Mr Key said completing an FTA would help deepen business links with the region.