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Europeans to seek mandate for FTA talks with NZ, Australia

European Commission to seek mandate for FTA talks with New Zealand, Australia

By Paul McBeth

Oct. 15 (BusinessDesk) - The European Commission will seek a mandate to start negotiating free trade agreements with New Zealand and Australia as the executive body for the European Union as the region launches a new trade strategy.

The commission today released a new trade strategy seeking more effective policies and improving transparency, including a commitment to release key texts in Europe's negotiations in the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a similar far-reaching trade and investment deal to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which sparked protests across the continent. The strategy's top priorities include reviving the World Trade Organisation and concluding the TTIP, along with a free trade deal with Japan and investment agreement with China, while also opening the door to a push into Asia-Pacific, Latin America and Africa.

The priority for Europe's Asia-Pacific strategy is strengthening relationships with Australia and New Zealand, which it sees as close partners sharing common values and views on a number of issues.

"Stronger economic ties with these countries will also provide a solid platform for deeper integration with wider Asia-Pacific value chains," the paper said. The commission will "request authorisation to negotiate FTAs with Australia and New Zealand, taking into account the EU agricultural sensitivities."

The new strategy comes as New Zealand renews its own desire for closer trade relations with Europe, and Prime Minister John Key will travel to Brussels later this month to meet with Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker to push the country's case for a free trade deal.

Last month, New Zealand's government released a refreshed trade strategy emphasising a pivot to Latin America and pursuing an FTA with Europe, while continuing to build on its deepening Asia region trade relationships.

New Zealand exported $5.08 billion of goods in the year ended Aug. 31, up from $5.01 billion a year earlier, while it imported $9.15 billion of goods in the same period, compared to $8.72 billion in 2014.


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