Monday, 04 October 2021 07:55

Mr O'Connor goes to Washington!

Written by  Peter Burke
Trade and Export Growth Minister Damien O'Connor. Trade and Export Growth Minister Damien O'Connor.

As Rural News revealed several weeks ago, Trade and Export Growth Minister Damien O'Connor is on his way to Europe and the United States to meet with key partners, including representing New Zealand at the G20 Trade Ministers' meeting in Italy.

However, the focus of the trip is very much on trying to get more action on the free trade agreement (FTA) with the EU. To that end, O'Connor will have meetings in Brussels, Ireland, Sweden, France and Italy. The negotiations with the EU appear to have stalled, partly because of the European summer break, and this trip aims to progress these talks.

O'Connor will meet in Brussels with Valdis Dombrovkis, the European Commission's Executive Vice-President and Trade Commissioner.

"Securing a high quality and comprehensive free trade agreement with the EU represents a huge opportunity for New Zealand exporters," he says. "The EU is NZ's fourth largest trading partner with two-way goods and services trade at over $15 billion per year. An FTA with the EU will also provide a more level playing field for New Zealand exporters."

O'Connor says he'll be reinforcing NZ's expectations and commitment to work with the EU to conclude the negotiations as soon as possible.

"New Zealand remains absolutely committed to a high quality and comprehensive FTA with the EU. We are one of the EU's most like-minded partners, but the lack of an FTA remains a disappointing anomaly that is in both of our interests, and our reach, to resolve."

Damien O'Connor will be participating in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Ministerial Council Meeting in Paris from October 5-6. He'll also represent NZ at the G20 Trade Ministers' Meeting in Italy, which will give him a chance to meet key trade ministers.

At that meeting, he will likely meet Britain's new Trade Secretary, Anne-Marie Trevelyan.

Suprisingly, O'Connor is not scheduled to go to London to meet with Trevelyan to try and get more progress on a UK/NZ FTA. There appears to be some sticking points on both sides, with NZ still concerned about the offer on agriculture, and the UK about financial and legal services.

On his way to Europe, O'Connor has a series of engagements in Washington, D.C., including meeting with the US Trade Representative Katherine Tai.

This will be the first visit by a NZ minister to the US since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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