OPINION: When Trade and Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor arrives back in the country in a few days' time, don't expect him to be waving around a piece of paper saying NZ has nailed free trade agreements (FTAs) with the UK and EU.
Negotiations on an FTA have been going on for the past three years and it's hoped a deal can be agreed within the next couple of years at the latest.
Government and industry sources have told Rural News that the European parliament, which has to ratify any FTA, will place strong emphasis on NZ's commitment to sustainability. The message being put out to the farming community by officials is that they need to get real about sustainability and that anything less than a full commitment could put an agreement at risk.
Rural News understands that NZ officials have already been quizzed about our country's environmental credentials and how far we are prepared to go in order to sign up to in any FTA.
NZ has already signed up to such issues in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership or CPTPP and this may help reassure EU parliamentarians about our commitment to highly enforceable environmental standards. There is apparently the question of what commitment NZ may make in terms of the Paris Agreement on climate change.
Of all the FTA's in the pipeline, the one with the EU will be the one that can deliver the greatest benefit to the NZ primary sector with dairy, meat and wine and horticulture beneficiaries.
The message going out to farmers is that any push back on sustainability could have consequences for them. The line being pushed is that NZ should take control of these standards and avoid the EU stepping in and writing the rules for us.