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Fear grows NZ will miss out Aus/US free trade pact

Media Release Monday, August 13th, 2001

Fear grows NZ will eliminate itself from Australia - US free trade pact

Business is raising the alarm that New Zealand will be left out entirely when a free trade deal is struck between the United States and Australia this year.

New Zealand is being out maneuvered and out performed by Australia, and its our own fault, said the chief executive of the Employers & Manufacturers Association (Northern), Alasdair Thompson.

"We aren't prepared to negotiate on free trade unless agriculture is included," Mr Thompson said. "Australia has no such qualms.

"Australia will race away with the benefits of an FTA with the US by parking its agricultural interests.

"We can't let this happen. Our exports of manufactured goods to the US, excluding dairy, meat and other agricultural products, grew 42.3 per cent for the year ended June to reach $2.2 billion - an FTA with the US without New Zealand will jeopardise that trade.

"Given the US is our most rapidly growing market for these employment rich and high margin products, we need to protect the toehold we've got as well as opportunities for growth. We can't afford to sit on the sideline and watch Australia score points.

"Right now we should be talking to the US about an FTA including, or excluding agriculture products, which may not be disadvantaged one way or the other.

"In negotiating trade agreements such as with NAFTA, or the US, or Chile, we have to be prepared to set aside issues sensitive to the other party. That was how we got CER up and running, and it proved extraordinarily successful.

"We must show international market nous. We must not penalise half our exports for the sake of others."

Further comment: tel Alasdair Thompson 09 367 0911 (b) 09 303 3951 (h) 025 982 024

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