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UK trade minister pops up into Wellington

UK trade minister pops up into Wgtn, promises 'better deal' for NZ ag exports

By Pattrick Smellie

Sept. 16 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand should get a better deal for exports of sheepmeat, beef and dairy products into the United Kingdom after Brexit, the British Minister of State for Trade, Liz Truss, said in Wellington today.

In her first appearance on a surprise round-the-world tour of countries the UK would like to negotiate with for new free trade agreements once it leaves the European Union, Truss reaffirmed the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's commitment that the UK will be out of the "European Union on the 31st of October with or without a deal".

However, the Financial Times reports that one of her colleagues, Brexit secretary Steve Barclay, has indicated a 'standstill transition' could be on the cards, meaning the UK would remain effectively governed by EU rules until perhaps 2022, by which time it would hope to have solved the major stumbling block to Brexit: maintenance of an open border between Northern Ireland, part of the UK, and the Republic of Ireland, an EU member.

Before Brexit occurs, New Zealand and some other agricultural exporting nations with preferential access to the EU are concerned not to see either the volume of product that can be exported to either the EU or Britain curtailed, or a loss of the flexibility that currently exists to shift product between the UK and the EU, according to market prices and supply.

Speaking ahead of a formal bi-lateral meeting, New Zealand's Trade Minister, David Parker, explicitly raised the issue of the threatened tariff rate quotas, with a view to ensuring that "New Zealand is no worse off after these negotiations than we are the current position".

While Britain is prioritising FTA talks with New Zealand, Australia, Japan and the United States - the four nations Truss will visit this week for preliminary talks - New Zealand's priority is negotiating an FTA with the EU, which initially proposed that the quotas, known as TRQs, should be split evenly between the UK and the EU, given the British market's traditional propensity to be the main market for New Zealand products.

The TRQs are most important for sheep and beef exports, and cover some dairy products. The issue is currently the subject of a formal objection process that New Zealand initiated with the World Trade Organisation in July last year.

"We believe that the TRQs that we've set out are fair," Truss told reporters before the meeting with Parker. "That is currently under discussion under Article 28 of the WTO. Those discussions will take place, but I think that the free trade agreement that we are poised to start negotiating will see a better deal for both the UK and New Zealand and I'm very keen to progress talks on that."

New Zealand was a "key priority in terms of the UK delivering our new free trade agenda," Truss said. "The UK is going to have its first independent trade policy for the first time in 45 years and it's a massive honour for me to be leading on that agenda." An FTA with New Zealand was "one of the first trade deals we expect to strike".

Parker said in February that New Zealand would "continue to fight" the EU and UK proposals on changing the existing TRQs. New Zealand's view is that they apply to current arrangements with the EU and that Britain's departure from the EU should not, in principle, change that deal at all.

(BusinessDesk)

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