Dairy News | 3 August 2021
’We want an Aussie-style agreement’
by Peter Burke
What happens in the next six weeks will be critical for New Zealand to secure a free trade agreement (FTA) with the UK, according to the executive director of the Dairy Companies Association (DCANZ), Kimberly Crewther.
Crewther says there has been a commitment by the UK Minister of Trade Liz Truss and our Agriculture and Trade Minister Damien O’Connor to come to an ’in principle’ agreement on the FTA by the end of August.
This is seen as a positive step, but it should be noted that such an ’in principle’ agreement is not the final FTA document, which may take several more months. But the ’in principle’ agreement is a very clear indication that both sides are basically at one and some ’technical’ details still have to be worked through by both sides. One expert commentator told Dairy News recently that this commitment by the two ministers certainly paves that way for a final quality FTA. It’s understood that the UK is pushing for greater access to NZ in terms of services - especially financial - while NZ has a strong focus on access for primary exports.
Crewther says she understands that negotiators from both sides are working very hard to deliver on the ministerial promise. She says the agreement NZ is looking for is similar to the one that the UK recently concluded with Australia.
"The UK agreement with Australia has an end point of complete tariff elimination and that’s what we believe should be delivered in a FTA, and that’s what we want for NZ," she says.
O’Connor is also positive about a deal with the UK, saying the UK is coming to terms with being separate from the EU, meaning they need a global strategy of connecting with many markets as possible. He says the UK is in the process of applying for membership of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) which will require them to adopt a more liberal trade policy.
With the EU, Crewther is less optimistic, saying their past leaked offer in respect of an FTA was insulting and significantly inadequate; any future offer would need to be a vast improvement to gain any credibility as far as NZ was concerned.
"The ball is now in their court to come back with something that would actually meet the quality of what should be achieved," she says.
O’Connor also concedes that it will take longer to get an FTA with the EU across the line. He says he had good meetings with politicians and officials in Brussels and gave them the message that a EU/NZ FTA would not spell ruin for their farmers.
"All were concerned that the trade agreement would not undermine any of their interests globally and we gave them that absolute assurance," he says.
O’Connor says he hopes that early next yar, they will reach a point where they can get a general agreement with the EU.