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NZ proposal to energise WTO negotiations


New Zealand proposal to energise WTO negotiations

New Zealand is to make a bold proposal at a World Trade Organisation meeting in Geneva aimed at energising the Doha Round negotiations, Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton said today.

Mr Sutton said Cabinet had directed New Zealand ambassador to the WTO Tim Groser to propose the elimination of remaining tariffs on all non-agricultural products as part of the "industrials" negotiations in Geneva today (midnight Monday, NZ time).

"New Zealand is aiming to lift significantly the level of ambition in the industrials market access negotiations, and thus increase the chances for a big result in the Doha Round as a whole, including in agriculture."

Mr Sutton said that if the proposal succeeded, it would mean that New Zealand exporters of forestry, fish, and manufactured products would save around $185 million a year in tariffs.

Internationally, the "industrials" tariff average is about 4.7 per cent, although that figure masks some sensitive areas which have significantly higher tariff rates. Eliminating those remaining tariffs internationally would save exporters hundreds of billions of dollars.

Mr Sutton emphasized that this proposal was just a proposal.

"This is New Zealand's negotiating bid. It is part of the negotiations ongoing among the 144 members of the WTO. New Zealand is not going to do this on its own. It has to be reciprocal. Either all join in, or none."

He said that the proposal had been discussed with other government departments and interested sectors.

"It is clear that industry wants the chance to compete on equal terms in the global market. At the moment, things are not equal."

Mr Sutton said it was appropriate for New Zealand to be putting forward such a proposal.

"New Zealand is well-known as a proponent of international agricultural trade reform. While more than 50 per cent of our exports are agricultural, it's worth highlighting that almost 50 per cent of our exports are non-agricultural. We have an important stake in how WTO negotiations in sectors other than agriculture go.

"The success of our fisheries, forestry, and manufactured products exporters is as important to me as that of our agricultural producers.

"Tariff barriers reduce the incomes of New Zealand exporters and make it harder to employ more people here."

Mr Sutton said the negotiating proposal was a separate issue to the tariff review being carried out currently.

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