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Response To Lockwood Smith's Comments

8 May 2002

New Zealand has not been ruled out of any potential trade agreement negotiations by the United States, as Lockwood Smith well knows, Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton said.

Mr Sutton commented that from the time New Zealand first adopted its nuclear-free policy, Lockwood Smith had adopted the practice of slagging it off to United States officials.

"It wouldn't surprise me if he has been up to his old tricks again."

Mr Sutton said the United States Government had made it clear its top trade priorities were obtaining trade promotion authority from Congress, and then advancing the World Trade Organisation Doha Development Round.

"The Administration is currently negotiating trade agreements with Chile and Singapore and has signalled that the huge Free Trade Agreement of the Americas and a Central American trade agreement are next in line.

"Any list is highly hypothetical at this stage because the Bush administration wants to get trade promotion authority before pursuing any other trade agreements."

Trade Promotion Authority, also known as "fast track" legislation, would enable the Administration to negotiate a trade agreement for ratification or rejection in its entirety by Congress, rather than allowing any deal to be picked over, clause by clause.

Mr Sutton said New Zealand supported the Bush Administration's effort to secure TPA.

"We would not want to do anything to jeopardise this delicately balanced process.

"Until TPA is secured, we do not think there will be any announcements about new trade partners."

Mr Sutton is visiting Washington DC in two weeks' time to raise New Zealand's profile in the United States again, and will again emphasise our desire to be included in future trade agreement negotiations

He said the Government had been working intensively, together with business, on progressing this important issue.

"Prime Minister Helen Clark, during her visit to Washington in March, told President Bush and his key advisers, including US Trade Representative Bob Zoellick, that the Government was ready to talk to the US about the possibility of a bilateral closer economic partnership agreement when Washington was ready.

"USTR Zoellick, following his meeting with the Prime Minister, commented New Zealand was a good trade partner of the US and that he would meet with me about the prospects of putting together an FTA. This is what I'm going to do when I visit Washington in a fortnight, and I look forward very much to seeing Trade Representative Zoellick again.

"Mr Zoellick has said that the US has a good trade and business relationship with New Zealand and that they looked for ways to improve it whether globally, regionally or bilaterally."

Mr Sutton said Helen Clark had also explained to the Administration in detail both New Zealand's support for the United States negotiating with Australia and the economic need, because of the economic integration of our two countries under CER, for New Zealand to be considered in close proximity with Australia.

"Strong support has already been extended by the US Chamber of Commerce for a CEP between New Zealand and the United States. New Zealand also has support from a group of Congresspeople. "

Office of Hon Jim Sutton

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