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Sutton welcomes US group’s push for FTA

Sutton welcomes US group’s push for FTA

18 February 2005

Trade Minister Jim Sutton yesterday welcomed a push by a group of United States politicians for a free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries.

A group of 54 lawmakers, comprising both Republicans and Democrats, launched a campaign to persuade the Bush administration to begin negotiations.

Mr Sutton’s spokeswoman yesterday told NZPA he welcomed the "solid, bi-partisan support" of the Friends of New Zealand caucus.

"The caucus seeks to further strengthen and promote closer economic, political and social links between the US and New Zealand in the hope of working towards an FTA between the two countries," she said.

"The support in congress reflects the very strong support as well from the US business community."

Caucus member Jim Kolbe, an Arizona Republican, recently visited New Zealand and Mr Sutton would visit the US after it had confirmed a new trade representative.

Business groups estimate an FTA would boost US exports to New Zealand by 25 per cent. The National Association of Manufacturers has put New Zealand on its list of top five potential free-trade partners for the United States.

AdvertisementAdvertisementTrade between the US and New Zealand totalled about $US5 billion ($NZ7.07 billion) in 2004.

John Wood, New Zealand’s ambassador to the United States, said the country sent military engineers to help in Iraqi reconstruction and was prepared to consider requests from the United Nations to provide more assistance.

One obstacle to beginning talks with the United States was the country’s small economy compared with other potential free-trade partners, Mr Wood said.

There also could be some "push back" from US dairy farmers worried about New Zealand’s prowess as a world-class dairy exporter, he said.

Australia and the US already have an FTA.