The United States has indicated it is open to a free trade agreement with New Zealand, Trade Minister Todd McClay says.
Mr McClay visited Washington for high-level trade talks with the administration of US President Donald Trump this week, meeting with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, newly appointed US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and other advisers to the president.
“I’ve welcomed their interest in a free trade agreement as a demonstration of the good shape our trading relationship is in,” Mr McClay said in a statement.
Mr McClay said his Government wanted free-trade agreements to cover 90% of goods exported by 2030, up from just over half currently, and the US will be an important part of achieving that.
Two-way trade between the two countries reached $16 billion in 2016, making the US New Zealand’s third-largest individual trading partner, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
New Zealand’s $180b economy depends on exports, and the Government had lobbied hard in favour of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.
Alongside Japan and Australia, New Zealand is trying to negotiate a deal with the 11 remaining countries of the TPP after the US withdrew.
Mr Trump dumped membership of the TPP as one of his first acts in an “America First” policy aiming at bringing manufacturing jobs back to the US.
He said he would seek one-on-one trade deals with countries that would allow the US to quickly terminate them in 30 days “if somebody misbehaves”.
Mr McClay said he had a constructive meeting with Mr Lighthizer and said Mr Ross indicated he saw no major impediments to a trade deal with his country. NZN