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Influential US senators call for tade agreement

Influential US senators call for NZ trade agreement

A letter to United States president George W Bush from influential United States senators Max Baucus and Charles Grassley encouraging him to initiate a trade agreement with New Zealand was extremely welcome, Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton said today.

Mr Sutton said the letter from Senator Baucus and Senator Grassley followed another letter earlier this month from Congresswoman Jennifer Dunn and colleagues to President Bush urging him to begin negotiations on a trade agreement between New Zealand and the United States as soon as possible.

Twenty-one members of the United States House of Representatives signed the letter, including Republicans Phil Crane, Chair of the Trade SubComittee of House Ways and Means; David Drier, Chair of the House Rules Committee; Henry Hyde, Chair of the House International Relations Committee; and a number of leading Democrats from the House Ways and Means Committee including Cal Dooley, Jim Moran and John Tanner.

Senator Phil Crane and Chairman of the House Internal Relations Committee subcommittee on East Asia and the Pacific Jim Leach had previously submitted bills to the Senate to authorise the negotiation of trade agreements between the United States and New Zealand.

Congressman Hyde visited New Zealand earlier this month and expressed strong support for a New Zealand - United States trade agreement during his visit.

Mr Sutton said the latest letter to President Bush meant that the concept of a trade agreement between New Zealand and the United States now had bipartisan support in both chambers of the United States Congress, the Senate and the House of Representatives.

"I am confident that New Zealand's desire for a comprehensive trade agreement with the United States is well recognised in Washington DC."

Mr Sutton said the ideal situation would be to negotiate a trade agreement between the United States and the CER countries ? both New Zealand and Australia.

"Together, we offer a combined market of 22 million people, which would be more attractive a prospect."

He said the letter from Senator Baucus and Senator Grassley was further evidence that there was a lot of good will towards both New Zealand and Australia in Washington DC.

"Many Americans see our two countries as a single entity."

Mr Sutton emphasised that there was no Cabinet mandate to begin any negotiations for trade agreements with any country at the moment, except for the negotiations currently underway with Hong Kong.

Any potential trade agreement with the United States would have a mandate from Cabinet, and there would be substantial public consultation and detailed discussions with interested parties before any such agreement was concluded.


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