OPINION: The PM's unrealistic claim of a free trade agreement with the EU before the end of the year is proving to be a hollow promise.
Britain’s Minister of State for International Trade, Liam Fox, said late last week that consultation on a proposed FTA will start in Britain in the coming months as a precursor to launching formal negotiations.
The consultation will involve all stakeholders in any FTA including farmers, all others in the agri sector and businesses in all sectors of the economy.
Dairy News understands that Fox’s announcement is timed to fit with the US’s domestic trade protocols which require that the Congress be notified before they can start formal negotiations for an FTA with Britain. As a result, New Zealand and Australia have become part of the process.
An announcement on when the three countries can begin talks on their respective FTAs is expected later this year, after which formal talks could begin in late March next year.
NZ government officials and industry have already begun preparing papers for the FTA with the UK and informal discussions have begun. Britain is believed keen to move quickly to get FTAs underway as soon as it leaves the European Union.
NZ officials see the Fox announcement as a positive. It comes just days after our officials had their first formal negotiations in Brussels on an FTA with the EU.
News of the UK’s launch of public consultations on an FTA with New Zealand has been welcomed by Trade Minister David Parker.
He says this signals that the UK is prioritising an early agreement with NZ, and wants an FTA as soon as possible after Britain leaves the EU.
“There are lots of other countries they could have chosen, but they have chosen us and that’s good.
“The UK and the EU, who have similar thinking on human rights, labour and environmental issues, offer good opportunities to advance our new trade agenda,” he says.
Parker says a progressive, high quality and comprehensive FTA would be an important first step.
“It would help remove barriers to trade and create world-leading approaches on issues like services and digital trade,” he says.
Britain is NZ’s fifth-largest trading partner with two-way trade worth nearly NZ$6 billion annually.
Britain has also signalled its interest in joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). Parker says growing the CPTPP membership would increase its value and contribute to more alignment of rules and trading standards, important in the current global trade environment.