Wednesday, 08 May 2024 08:55

Benefits of EU trade deal

Written by  Peter Burke
European Union Ambassador to New Zealand, Lawrence Meredith. European Union Ambassador to New Zealand, Lawrence Meredith.

The European Union Ambassador says the new free trade agreement (FTA) between the bloc and New Zealand will bring significant benefits to both parties.

Lawrence Meredith told Rural News that one of his goals is to get out and talk to farmers about the deal and explain the benefits.

The FTA came into effect last week and will see duties removed on 91% of NZ exports to the EU, immediately rising to 97% over seven years.

Two of the big beneficiaries of the deal are kiwifruit growers who can expect savings of around $16,000 this year with the removal of tariffs, and onion growers can expect to see annual industry savings of around $6.5 million. There are also small increases in quota for beef, sheepmeat and dairy products. Overall, the NZ-EU FTA is expected to increase total NZ exports to the EU by $1.8 billion annually.

Meredith says as well as trade, the FTA reinforces the very strong shared values of the partners in the agreement. He says NZ's strong support for Ukraine aligns with the EU's stance on what he describes as the brutal and illegal invasion of Ukraine.

He says there are also strong cultural and historical connections between NZ and many EU members, including the Netherlands, Poland, Croatia and Ireland - the latter being where his own ancestors came.

"This trade agreement has achieved the highest approval rating of any trade agreement in EU history for two important reasons. Firstly, it has a strong and innovative chapter on sustainable development, and secondly, we have the world's first specific chapter for relations with Māori and Māori business," he says.

Meredith says the other big benefit for NZ is that it will now have access to a very extensive and well-funded research programme called Horizon Europe. He says NZ is the first global partner of this programme outside of Europe and says our scientists have a high success rate in applying for grants.

While NZ will benefit from the FTA in trading terms, the EU, says Meredith, is seeing big opportunities in terms of potential investment in climate tech, agritech, digital and more broadly infrastructure.

"My role here is to work with my fellow European ambassadors based in Wellington and those based in Canberra to do everything possible to strengthen the trading ties with NZ," he says.

While NZ is strongly supportive of the EU in respect of the war in Ukraine, the EU is looking to NZ to develop closer links with the Pacific region.

Meredith says NZ is seen as a leader in this area and notes the region is rapidly growing in importance in both geopolitical and trading terms. He says there is great opportunity for both parties to broaden their relationship in the region.

Farmer Voice

Lawrence Meredith grew up in a dairy farming village in Yorkshire in England and has a great empathy with the people who work the land and the essential role they play in their own communities and wider society.

"I want to get out of Wellington and to hear the voice of NZ farmers, even though it is unlikely that we'll agree on every aspect of the FTA. But I think we should have the conversation and there are new opportunities with this trade agreement for farmers," he says.

Meredith says he's aware that NZ farmers had hoped for more in a NZ-EU FTA, but says it is still a very good deal and has long term benefits.

"A trade agreement is a piece of paper. What I am interested in doing is turning this into real business deals where farmers make more profits on both sides. There are gains to be had for all in this FTA."

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