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New Zealand and Thailand agree to CEP study

New Zealand and Thailand agree to CEP study

New Zealand and Thailand have agreed to undertake a scoping study into the feasibility of negotiating a New Zealand-Thailand Closer Economic Partnership, Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton said today.

Agreement was reached by Mr Sutton and Thai counterpart, Adisai Bodharamik, during a meeting earlier this month at the APEC Trade Ministers' meeting in Khon Kaen.

Mr Sutton said bilateral trade negotiations demanded a lot of specialist resources, so it was important to rigorously evaluate the true costs and benefits to New Zealand and Thailand before committing resources. The average tariff on New Zealand products sent to Thailand is more than 14 per cent.

"Opting for the study option as the first step in a process that may lead to CEP negotiations also allowed the Government more flexibility in timing any subsequent negotiations."

Mr Sutton said the idea of negotiating a trade agreement with Thailand was not new.

"In 2001, Thailand flagged its interest in such negotiations with New Zealand. We were committed to other negotiations at the time. Thailand has also entered into negotiations with other countries. The timing is now more conducive for both countries to consider beginning negotiations.

"We see a study as the most sensible first step in assessing whether we and Thailand want to proceed to a substantive CEP negotiation."

He said the study with Thailand was in line with the approach being used with Hong Kong, Chile/Singapore and Mexico. New Zealand undertook studies with Hong Kong and Chile/Singapore before initiating CEP negotiations, and a scoping study is being done on the feasibility of a CEP with Mexico

New Zealand and Thai officials will now be asked to begin discussions on how to take the idea of the scoping study forward, Mr Sutton said.

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