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Australia NZ Trade Min off to UK, EU to land deals

21:03  11 june  2021
21:03  11 june  2021 Source:   aap.com.au

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As he flies to London to progress talks, New Zealand's Trade Minister believes the pressure is on the United Kingdom to bridge the gap towards a free trade agreement.

Damien O'Connor wearing a suit and tie: NZ Trade Minister Damien O'Connor will depart Aotearoa this weekend for London, Paris and Brussels. © AP PHOTO NZ Trade Minister Damien O'Connor will depart Aotearoa this weekend for London, Paris and Brussels.

Damien O'Connor will depart Aotearoa this weekend for London, Paris and Brussels, aiming to keep up momentum for new deals.

Most emphasis is on the UK's post-brexit deal, which New Zealand is negotiating concurrently with Australia.

"It's been said a number of times in the UK that if they can't do a deal with New Zealand and Australia, then who can they do a deal with?" Mr O'Connor said.

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"I think it is (under pressure) and they've openly said that they want to get out and negotiate trade agreements."

Mr O'Connor said the UK's market access offer was currently "well short" and that the abolition of tariffs within a decade was "a good ambition".

The West Coast-Tasman MP said he would be devoting energy to myth-busting on his travels.

"The sensitive issues are as they always are, around agriculture - sheep meat, beef - and some of the horticultural products" he said.

"I think there's a perception in both UK and EU that we could swamp the market and and shoot volume. We're not.

"In total, we can probably feed 40 million people. Clearly, China is our number one market and Southeast Asia, other markets, consume a lot of our produce.

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"The amount left to go into the UK and EU is not that great."

The trade talks will complete a fifth round this weekend before Mr O'Connor and Secretary of State for International Trade Liz Truss will sit down.

"After that they'll get shoved back up the line to a political level which is where Minister Truss and I hopefully can can make some progress," he said.

"There's lots of work still to be done ... I don't expect to come back with the agreement signed and sealed but I hope that we can make progress."

Both parties have stated they wish to conclude this year - which would leave room for a potential handshake should Jacinda Ardern travel to the UK for the Glasgow Climate Change Conference in November.

Mr O'Connor's visit will also follow Australian PM Scott Morrison's trip to the UK to meet with the G7, but the Kiwi said he wasn't worried about falling behind Australia or playing second banana.

"It's not a race. It's a negotiation," he said.

"We won't sacrifice quality for speed."

Mr O'Connor also revealed to AAP this week New Zealand was yet to contact the Biden administration to see whether it would be amenable to free trade talks.

New Zealand opposition leader Judith Collins says Mr O'Connor should pick up the phone - and recruit allies Australia - to help broker a deal.

His visit will be the first overseas trip by a NZ government minister since the arrival of COVID-19 to New Zealand.

As a result of his travel, Mr O'Connor will need to quarantine for a fortnight on return within NZ's hotel quarantine system.

The West Coast-Tasman MP said he planned on working from his hotel room and attending cabinet meetings remotely.

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This is interesting!