Xinhua | 2013-09-24
New Zealand PM admits EU free trade agreement to take time
WELLINGTON, Sept. 24 — New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has sought French President Francois Hollande’s backing for a New Zealand-EU free trade agreement, but admitted that such a deal is a long way off, according to reports.
Key and Hollande held talks at the Elysee Palace in Paris on Monday in their first meeting since Hollande was elected last year, Key said in a statement from his office Tuesday.
"The meeting was an opportunity to mark our warm and long standing relationship with France. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, France is a significant European player with huge global reach and we deeply value their friendship," said Key.
"Our discussions today covered our many areas of cooperation including our trade and economic relationship and our close cooperation in the Pacific. The president also provided me with some interesting insights into developments in the European Union and the Eurozone," he said.
"We also had a useful discussion on global and regional issues including Syria and Egypt."
After the meeting with Hollande, Key also met with French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault.
The New Zealand Herald reported that Key said he had "pitched strongly" for moving from a partnership agreement with a minimal economic focus to a free trade agreement.
"Realistically, I think we’ve got a bit of work to do," Key said in the report.
"The indication we got is it’s not off the table forever, but we are going through a process which will take some time. There’s an understanding that for countries with such a shared history that should happen."
Key will travel to New York later Tuesday to attend the 68th UN General Assembly, where he and Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully will lobby for support for New Zealand’s bid for a seat on the Security Council in 2015-2016.