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Five Nation Trade Pact Talks Ongoing - Chile

By Selwyn Manning

The Chilean delegation attending APEC in Auckland insist that a five nation trade pact is under discussion between the United States, Chile, Australia, Singapore and New Zealand.

Chile's President Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle met with US President Bill Clinton yesterday and told the Chilean media contingent here in Auckland that Mr Clinton was keen to pursue the talks further.

New Zealand, the Chileans insist, pushed forward the idea for a closer trade arrangement between the five nations.

But New Zealand trade camp is playing down the revelations.

A spokesperson for New Zealand international trade minister Lockwood Smith, told Scoop: "The matter has been raised but it would be wrong to suggest a deal had been signed."

The spokesperson insisted, New Zealand would talk to any nation on trade, "with anyone at anytime," he said.

New Zealand is in talks with several economies at the moment on trade deals which mirror the Free Trade Agreement signed between New Zealand and Singapore on Saturday.

But neither the spokesperson nor the Minister Lockwood Smith, would reveal any further details.

New Zealand and Chile clashed earlier this year after Chile stole and marketed "Pacific Rose" apples on the world market.

The two nations clash over mirrored trade commodities in viticulture, agriculture and forestry. Chile is also host to the multi-national New Zealand companies Carter Holt Harvey and Fletcher Forestry. Both companies have major offshore interests in forestry stocks in Chile.

Carter Holt's offshore investment has a troubled history. Currently, Chile based environmentalists are protesting at what they call Carter Holt's "scarred earth" approach to forestry in Chile.

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