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NZ faces barriers to free trade deal with US - Clark

NZ faces barriers to free trade deal with US - Clark


19 March 2007

New Zealand faces several barriers to getting a free trade deal with the United States, Prime Minister Helen Clark says.

Miss Clark flies out to Washington tonight for a face-to-face meeting with US President George W Bush this week.

Trade will be on the agenda, but Miss Clark today said those discussions were likely to focus on the stalled Doha Round of World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks, rather than a bilateral free trade agreement.

Miss Clark said New Zealand wasn’t in the priority queue for negotiations and that was unlikely to change in the remaining two years of the Bush-led administration.

Asked if that was because of a lack of a "strategic relationship" with the US in places such as Iraq, Miss Clark said there were a variety of reasons.

"One of them is that we are so small that countries will say `why would we bother?’ and secondly we are already so open that countries will say `why would New Zealand be a priority’," she said today on Newstalk ZB.

Miss Clark said the difference with China - with which New Zealand has entered negotiations - was it wanted to conclude a precedent-setting agreement with a developed country and saw New Zealand as a reasonably simple proposition.

Miss Clark said New Zealand wasn’t giving up on a free trade deal with the US, but with President Bush’s mandate to fast-track negotiations expiring later this year it had to be realistic.

"Trade is going to be on the agenda with the main focus being the WTO Round, which is where the biggest gains for New Zealand are to be made.

"But certainly we’ve had a bid in to go in on a list of prospective partners for negotiation for quite some time.

"Whether that’s possible within the life of the current administration is quite another matter."

Glyn Davies, deputy assistant secretary of state, recently spoke about the trade relationship, saying a free-trade deal could happen at some stage in the future but the US was focusing at the moment on a trade and investment framework agreement.

The document is a lesser one negotiated by officials to enhance economic co-operation.