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NZ ready to talk to Bush Govt about free trade

NZ Herald, Auckland

NZ ready to talk to Bush Govt about free trade

5 November 2004

New Zealand will again put its case to the United States to negotiate a bilateral free-trade agreement, after the election of President George W. Bush for a second term.

The New Zealand Embassy in Washington had worked continuously throughout the presidential campaign to build support for free-trade negotiations, said Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry chief executive Simon Murdoch.

"We’ve had reports every week for the past two months from the Ambassador [John Wood] about his lobbying effects in and around Capitol Hill, so there hasn’t been any slackening of effort," he told Parliament’s foreign affairs, defence and trade committee yesterday.

"We will be making the case to [get] on the list of [free-trade] partners just as soon as we know who we are going to be talking to in the next Administration."

Trade Minister Jim Sutton had met US trade representative Robert Zoellick in February and was told to approach the Administration after the presidential campaign, Mr Murdoch said.

"In order to do that, effectively we are going to have to demonstrate we have some support in the American Congress and some support in the United States business community, and I believe we do have that."

The ministry expected to see a continuation of existing foreign policy from the new Administration, Mr Murdoch said.

"Our embassy in Washington put a lot of thought into this and provided us with quite a lot of reporting. The broad conclusion of that reporting that we conveyed to ministers was there was likely to be less change than continuity in American policy even if the presidency had gone to John Kerry."

Mr Murdoch said he expected that the Bush Administration would examine the future of its involvement in Iraq over coming weeks.

Meanwhile, National Party leader Don Brash has congratulated Mr Bush but said his re-election meant a free-trade deal with the US remained unlikely.