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US Meetings Progress Trade Issues: Minister

25 May 2002

Progress was made on improving trade ties between New Zealand and the United States as a result of a meeting with United States Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton said today.

The two ministers met for more than an hour and a half - double the scheduled time - covering a broad range of multi-lateral and bilateral trade issues, and building on detailed talks between senior officials of both countries over the preceeding week.

Mr Sutton said New Zealand was committed to progressing free trade and to achieving the best possible results under the recently begun WTO Doha Development Round.

"The United States and New Zealand are close friends and this was a great opportunity to discuss not only bilateral and multilateral trade issues but also ways to build on the good relationship we enjoy."

Issues discussed included the Bush Administration's positive progress towards establishing Trade Promotion Authority and the possibility of a trade agreement between the two countries.

"Trade liberalisation between New Zealand and the United States is a logical next step. It is mutually beneficial from an economic point of view and it could serve as a catalyst for further trade liberalisation regionally and globally, including on agriculture.

"The positive vote on TPA sets a good foundation for those of us working to advance the WTO negotiations."

Mr Sutton also conveyed to Ambassador Zoellick New Zealand's disappointment over the Farm Bill passed by Congress two weeks ago, and the decision to introduce safeguards on US steel.

"While we are gravely concerned by the Farm Bill we are pleased, that despite this, recent statements by the Bush Administration indicate they are committed to global trade negotiations, particularly those on reforming agricultural trade. This is encouraging as the world continues to look to the United States for leadership in securing a good agricultural outcome during this trade round."

Mr Sutton said he reiterated New Zealand's concerns about the impact steel safeguards were having on New Zealand's unsubsidised steel industry.

"We are still exploring, both bilaterally in the United States and through discussions in Geneva under WTO rules, ways of addressing our concern."

During his visit to the United States, Mr Sutton also meet Agricultural Secretary Ann Veneman, Commerce Deputy Secretary Samuel Bodman, members of President Bush's economic team, and members of the United States Congress.

"We have a great deal of co-operation with the United States on trade, especially on WTO issues. USTR Zoellick's efforts were pivotal in getting the WTO Doha Development Round off the ground. We are putting great effort into negotiating the new round and will be working closely with the United States in doing this."

Mr Sutton said he was encouraged by the amount of support shown by American business for a trade agreement. He planned to discuss ways of furthering this support with US-NZ Council President Fred Benson and the US Chamber of Commerce.

Ends


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