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NZ US Council welcomes Announcement

Media Release – 23 September 2008

NZ US Council welcomes US Trans-Pacific Announcement

The NZ US Council today welcomed the announcement of the launch of negotiations for the United States to join the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement or “Transpacific Agreement”. The Agreement, formerly known as the “P4”, currently includes New Zealand, Singapore, Chile and Brunei.

The decision, announced early this morning by US Trade Representative, Susan Schwab, will effectively launch negotiations for a free trade agreement linking New Zealand and the United States.

“This is a big step forward”, said Council Chairman Rt Hon James Bolger. “The NZUS Council and its supporters have worked towards this goal since the Council’s inception in 2001. This vindicates our efforts and those of successive New Zealand governments and officials over many years. The challenge now is to be in a position to encourage the next Administration in the US to engage in active negotiations to achieve our goal in a realistic timeframe.”

Mr Bolger said that the announcement was very significant for New Zealand. “The US is our second largest trading partner after Australia. Establishing free trade links between our two economies will put New Zealand on a level playing field with competitors in the American market and lead to improved market access and higher returns.”

“US participation in the Transpacific Agreement will also provide important strategic benefits, help promote free trade across the Pacific, and send a signal to other partners especially in APEC.”

Mr Bolger said that in recent years the NZUS Council had focused its attention on strengthening New Zealand’s overall relationship with the United States.

“The Council’s Partnership Forum events, one in Washington DC in April 2006 and one in Auckland in September 2007, helped build the momentum for a much improved relationship between New Zealand and the United States. New Zealand now has a well-established high level constituency within the United States that has successfully advocated the value of US relations with New Zealand”.

The US decision to enter comprehensive negotiations follows its announcement in February of this year that it would negotiate on financial services and investment with the P4 group. Three rounds of negotiations have since been held.

Mr Bolger said that the Council would now focus its efforts on supporting the comprehensive trade negotiations.

“We know there is a lot of work ahead of us. The NZUS Council will work to mobilise the business community in support of government efforts to ensure the best possible results for New Zealand from these negotiations.“

ENDS

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