National Business Review
AmCham to push for US-NZ FTA
The American Chamber of Commerce in New Zealand said today it would take the case for opening free trade negotiations direct to Washington.
"There’s a new impetus in NZ-US relations on both sides of the world with a number of key decision makers and lobby groups lining up as advocates to urge a start in free-trade talks," said AmCham executive director Mike Hearn.
The announcement builds on recent recommendations to the same effect by America’s most powerful manufacturing lobby — the National Association of Manufacturers — and the formation of the bi-partisan Friends of New Zealand Congressional Caucus in the House of Representatives.
That group is comprised of 54 members of Congress, led by Representatives Jim Kolbe (R-Arizona) and Ellen Tauscher (D-California).
Late last year, Senator Max Baucus (D-Montana) visited New Zealand and said in a recent report to US President George W Bush that a trade deal with New Zealand would be "in the United States’ best interests."
"We know there are challenges in extracting any movement with Washington because of the sensitivities American producers have, particularly over New Zealand’s exports to the US such as dairy and lamb. We also know New Zealand’s anti-nuclear status is viewed by many as an obstacle and that there have been issues with other New Zealand stands related to security and foreign policy. And we were very disappointed that Washington knocked back efforts to include New Zealand in the Australian deal, particularly when transtasman economic co-operation is accelerating," said Mr Hearn.
But, he said, recent comments by Prime Minister Helen Clark that her government was "ready to enter negotiations with the United States" even though the anti-nuclear policy "would not be gone by lunchtime", coupled with winning support from influential political and business lobbies in America all supported a cautious optimism about the prospects for an FTA.
"We view the recent developments as encouraging but timing is everything. We must leverage the opportunity while we can. Past experience shows that even with Congressional support, which has increased from 21 to 54 in no small part because of the dogged efforts of New Zealand Ambassador to Washington, John Woods, and the solid backing of US businesses in the US and in NZ, progress can easily falter."