Tuesday, 26 June 2018 13:55

EU trade talks underway

Written by  Peter Burke
EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom

Negotiations towards a free trade agreement between New Zealand and the European Union have at last got underway.

Trade Minister David Parker and other ministers met last week at Parliament with EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström to begin the talks. 

Then will follow at least two rounds of talks by NZ and EU officials this year and more talks probably over the next two years to conclude a deal.

Strong support comes from the British High Commissioner to NZ, Laura Clarke, who says it’s great the negotiations have begun and they have the full support of the UK. 

The European Union’s ambassador to NZ, Bernard Savage, says the EU has prepared well for the start of the FTA negotiations. The aim is not to finish the talks quickly but to get the best deal possible as quickly as possible.

Savage says an important facet of the talks is to get input from not only officials but also industry groups and the public.

Important feedback will come from the Dairy Companies Association of NZ (DCANZ), whose chief executive Kimberly Crewther says it will play a full role in consultation and promote the FTA as a quality, comprehensive deal that ultimately results in full liberalisation of trade.

This will be a 21st century FTA, she says -- not just about trade but also the environment and labour issues.  

For DCANZ a big issue will be ‘geographic indicators’ (GIs) relating to cheese names. It opposes Europeans’ misuse of GI frameworks to unfairly monopolise the use of cheese varietal names commonly used globally for many decades.  

“In our view names like mozzarella, paremsan, harvati, halloumi, feta, danbo, cheddar, gouda, edam and gruyere are generic names for types of cheese which should not be monopolised for use by producers in a specific region,” she says.

Crewther says before the negotiations began, both sides agreed on their scope, including the aim of fully liberalising trade in goods -- from DCANZ’s point of view a positive starting point for talks. But she says they know agricultural negotiations can be complex.

“The bigger picture for both the EU and NZ is we are both competitive dairy exporters. The EU is a growing exporter of dairy products onto the global market so… it doesn’t make a lot of sense to maintain barriers between our own sectors,” she says.

Tariffs are not just a barrier to exporters such as NZ, but they also cost the consumer in the country that imposes tariffs, resulting in higher food prices.

“For example, prices spike at a time of shortage of supply in a market,” she says.

DCANZ will work through the issues as the negotiations proceed, Crewther says. It knows its counterparts in the EU dairy industry well because they all belong to various dairy forums.

 The negotiations present an opportunity, she says, “not just for trade between our markets but in terms of leadership for trade globally”. 

“We have the opportunity to demonstrate that it is possible to move forward on liberalisation in a way that is mutually beneficial,” she says. 


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