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Free trade deal may be in place in two years says PM

Radio New Zealand

Free trade deal may be in place in two years says PM

15 November 2009

Prime Minister John Key says the new Trans-Pacific Trade Treaty, which effectively gives New Zealand a free trade agreement with the United States, could be in place in two years.

Eight countries are committed now to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and its future could be completed this weekend as US President Barack Obama arrives at the APEC summit.

Mr Key says negotiations on the agreement start on Sunday night and continue on Monday, and the trade treaty could be in place by 2011.

He says that would give New Zealand a free trade agreement with China and the United States as well as many other countries.

Mr Key says that would position New Zealand brilliantly for growth in the next 10 to 20 years.

He says agriculture would be included in the deal.

Trade deal sparks interest

Trade Minister Tim Groser says countries are lining up to join New Zealand in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement.

Mr Groser was speaking at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Singapore where 21 leaders from the region have been discussing how best to steer the global economy towards recovery, boosting trade and cooperation.

The proposed eight-country free trade deal has been stalled since March, pending a review of US trade policy but received a boost on Saturday after President Barack Obama re-committed America to negotiations.

Mr Obama said the US will re-engage in free trade agreements such as the TPP, which began under the previous Bush administration, to help boost American exports and create jobs.

The Obama administration has come under pressure to guarantee access for American businesses to the lucrative Asian market.

Mr Obama’s representative, Ron Kirk, says the Trans-Pacific Partnership would be the best way to guarantee that access.

Radio New Zealand’s economic correspondent reports two countries have so far expressed an interest in joining the nations already signed up, and more could follow.

Mr Groser believes this could add to the value of the deal, which New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has already put in the billions of dollars.

"We all understand that the bigger the number of countries involved, the bigger the benefits will be. And equally, we all understand the cost of involving more countries (and) the greater complexity it will be."

The New Zealand United States Council welcomes America’s decision to re-engage in negotiations with the Trans Pacific Partnership.

The council says the decision shows the US sees value in being fully part of moves towards freer and more open trade in the Asia-Pacific region.

Executive director Gabrielle Rush says the importance of having a commitment from Mr Obama cannot be under-estimated.