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Bilaterals, not NAFTA, best for New Zealand

Former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney's call for closer trading relations between New Zealand and the United States was a welcome one, Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton said today.

Mr Sutton met Mr Mulroney this morning in Wellington.

"Brian Mulroney is a committed advocate for such relationships, having played a key role in negotiating the bilateral US-Canada trade agreement which preceded the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)."

Mr Sutton said New Zealand was also interested in pursuing relationships such as that negotiated with Singapore and proposed with Hong Kong where they could be demonstrated to be in New Zealand's national interest. There would be important gains to be made for New Zealand exporters in the United States.

However, he said that while some people advocate accession to NAFTA, it was not clear that this would be the best way of meeting all New Zealand's needs and objectives.

"Chief among these is that any arrangement we enter into needs to be comprehensive - NAFTA excludes dairy, an important sector for New Zealand."

Mr Sutton said NAFTA also included complicated legal and dispute settlement processes especially in foreign investment.

"Simply adopting these is not a viable option. New Zealand would want to have our say in this type of mechanism"

Mr Sutton said he agreed with Mr Mulroney that New Zealand should continue to look at options on a bilateral basis.

"Any such negotiations would need to be subject to Cabinet mandate and consultation with all affected parties and stakeholders as is happening presently with the Hong Kong negotiations."

ENDS

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