3 News | 03 Mar 2014
Russia FTA could be delayed - Key
By Simon Wong
Prime Minister John Key says a free-trade agreement (FTA) with Russia could be delayed because of the escalating situation between the superpower and Ukraine.
The Government has been negotiating a deal with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan for the past three years. Trade Minister Tim Groser has been in Moscow for the past few days and is making "good progress", Mr Key says.
However, he will leave Moscow tonight after being told to leave the country following a trade meeting today.
Mr Key says he was not sure if Mr Groser was leaving the country early, because the trade talks were an "ongoing process as we’re trying to nail down the last bits of the FTA".
"We made it clear to him that he should have his meeting today and leave."
Mr Key told reporters today if the situation in Ukraine escalates further it "may have an impact" on when the deal could be signed.
Pulling out of the agreement altogether is not a preferred option, he says.
"That’s a hypothetical possibility. It’s not one we’d prefer to pursue, but also equally what we’d prefer to see is diplomacy deployed in Ukraine and not physical force."
He does not believe it will be the right time to sign an FTA.
"Let’s see how things progress. It’s been three years of work – we’d like to see a deal signed, but we’d also like to see how things unfold in Russia," Mr Key says.
"We had been hoping to make progress quite quickly, I can’t tell you today what the impact will be but it may have an impact on timing."
Mr Key has labelled the developments "unacceptable" and has called on the Russian government to deescalate tensions in the Crimean Peninsula through diplomacy.
Russian Ambassador called in
Meanwhile, the Russian Ambassador to New Zealand has been called into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade this afternoon.
Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully says he called the ambassador Valery Tereshchenko to the ministry to "hear directly New Zealand’s views on the situation in the Ukraine".
"New Zealand is deeply alarmed at the escalation of tensions in Ukraine over recent days and we condemn the breach of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity," Mr McCully says.
"We understand Russia has significant interests especially in the Crimean Peninsula. However, they need to pursue these interests in a manner that is consistent with Russia’s treaty obligations, international law and accepted international norms."
He has called on the Russian Government to reduce tensions in the area and to begin consultation with other affected parties.