Nuke policy still an issue in US trade talks - Brash
24 April 2006
National Party leader Don Brash sees little prospect for a free trade agreement (FTA) with the United States after attending a business forum in Washington at the weekend.
The US-NZ Partnership Forum brought together leading politicians and business representatives from both countries, and has been hailed as a success by its organisers.
Trade Minister Phil Goff was there for the Government, and said before he left he did not expect an FTA breakthrough.
New Zealand wants a deal, but the US has not yet agreed to negotiations.
Dr Brash said today it was "fairly clear" that some members of the US Administration felt there was no prospect of an FTA unless there was some change in New Zealand’s anti-nuclear position.
He said there were other factors as well, such as New Zealand’s small size as a market for American-made goods.
"They’re saying it would be very difficult at this stage," he said on National Radio.
"The Americans have a number of other (FTA) negotiations in train, so I don’t think there is any serious prospect of a free trade agreement at this stage."
Dr Brash said that during his meeting with US officials he had emphasised his party was committed to the ban on nuclear-powered ships.
"I think we made it very clear that the National Party went into the election last year committed to the retention of the current anti-nuclear legislation, and that’s still our policy," he said.
"I understand that in one of the speeches at the forum on Friday, a person from the (US) Department of Commerce made it pretty clear that there really wasn’t any prospect of an FTA while the elephant was under the table - I think that was the expression used."
Forum chair and NZ-US Council chairman Jim Bolger said yesterday the meeting had surpassed expectations in terms of participation and provided an "extraordinary opportunity" to influence the thinking of some key people in Washington.
"They now know a lot more about New Zealand and its potential to contribute to US global business interests. That can only prove positive for the future," he said.
The forum organisers intend holding another meeting in 2007, at a venue in New Zealand.