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Minister to visit United States, Canada

Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton is to visit Canada and the United States for talks with fellow Trade and Agriculture Ministers, key trade policy makers and business leaders.

Mr Sutton said he was very much looking forward to having the opportunity to talk to his Canadian and American counterparts about the importance of seeing a new WTO trade Round launched, and about their shared interest in trade liberalisation efforts generally.

He will go first to Toronto, Canada's commercial hub, where Trade New Zealand has recently opened a new trade office. Mr Sutton will meet the Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Brian Coburn, and have talks with representatives of the local business community. He will address a business audience on New Zealand's economic and investment outlook and perspectives on trade liberalisation.

In Ottawa, Mr Sutton will have talks with Canadian Trade Minister Pierre Pettigrew and Agriculture Minister Lyle Vanclief. Mr Sutton then heads to Washington.

"I am particularly pleased to be going to Washington at this time, as it will be the first occasion I will have to meet key members of the new Bush Administration, including United States Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, and Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman", Mr Sutton said.

"I have been most encouraged by what other key Bush administration officials have said to Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff during his visit last month about US readiness to engage in discussions on regional or bilateral trade liberalisation arrangements."

It is expected that while in Washington, Mr Sutton will also meet the Secretaries of Commerce and the Treasury, as well as a number of Senators and Congressional leaders from both sides of the House.

"Washington policy makers are already aware of NZ's interest in either a bilateral or regional closer economic relationship with the US. I want to reinforce to them personally our readiness to be involved in any such discussions as soon as the US is ready to move in this direction," Mr Sutton said.

"In my view, a trade liberalisation arrangement with New Zealand would be a natural extension of the United States' own plans for liberalised trade arrangements with Singapore and Chile."

New Zealand already has a CER agreement with Australia, as well as a CEP agreement with Singapore, and is pursuing one with Chile.

"I will also be discussing our interest, which the United States shares, in trade liberalisation generally. With that in mind, the upcoming Qatar WTO Ministerial meeting, and our hope that this will see the successful launch of a new WTO trade round, will be an important feature of my meetings in Washington."

Mr Sutton will be giving an address on these issues to an audience of business leaders and trade policy makers in Washington.

Also during his visit to Washington, Mr Sutton will sign the Multilateral Air Services Agreement on 1 May, along with the US Secretary of Transport, and the Transport Ministers of Brunei, Chile and Singapore. New Zealand had taken a leading role in negotiating the agreement, an initiative which arose out of APEC, aiming to improve international airlinks.

Mr Sutton leaves New Zealand on April 25, and returns on May 3.

ENDS

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