Fairfax NZ News | 07/09/2012
Russian FTA hangs in balance - Key
Prime Minister John Key says a free trade deal with Russia "hangs in the balance" after Russia’s First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov expressed nervousness about the deal, especially the impact on agricultural exports.
Key is set to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin for face-to-face talks tomorrow.
Today Key signalled he would push hard at that meeting for a comprehensive deal to be finalised but that it was Putin’s call.
"It does in one sense hang in the balance. It’s a political decision ultimately. In the end this FTA will go ahead if Vladimir Putin wants it to go ahead and it won’t if he doesn’t."
Speaking on a panel with Key this morning during the first session of an Apec chief executives forum, Shuvalov said Russia could not afford a "classical pure" free trade deal.
Shuvalov will be in the meeting between Key and Putin. Key said no deal would be signed this weekend.
"It is very close but it is not a done deal."
Trade Negotiations Minister Tim Groser would stay on in Russia for two days after Apec to continue talks and a timetable for an agreement may be set.
Key said his sense was that Russia wanted to press on with a deal, but there were always domestic issues and concerns, which had also surfaced before Russia joined the World Trade Organisation.
Russia was looking at up to 30 FTAs and the one with New Zealand was the closest to being finalised, Key said. Shuvalov had said it was the blueprint for others.
Getting an FTA over the line required political leadership,
Russia did not have to agree to the removal of agricultural protection overnight. They could be phased out.
He could not guarantee it would succeed but New Zealand would put its best foot forward.
However, New Zealand could not afford to "devalue its template" of comprehensive deals by agreeing to less with Russia. That would have knock-on implications for other future deals such as the 11-member Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Key said talks were underway about New Zealand hosting Apec in the future, probably either in 2019 or 2021.