Better news may be on the horizon for the free trade agreement with the Gulf Cooperation Council following the Prime Minister’s meeting with the Saudi Arabian Deputy Prime Minister in New York last week. The Prime Minister indicated that he was “quite optimistic” that the Agreement could be in place in 2017. Trade Minister Todd McClay is in Saudi Arabia this week and it will be interesting to see what the GCC is prepared to commit to during this visit. There was optimism earlier in the year that this negotiation had been unblocked following a visit to the region by Foreign Minister McCully. But the GCC had failed to deliver on some of the commitments made during that visit.
New Trade Strategy
A number of questions continue to be asked about the Government’s proposed new trade strategy. Minister McClay and senior trade negotiator Dr David Walker PhD have been contacting key stakeholders to provide re-assurance that the negotiation of new FTAs remain possible. BusinessNZ and ExportNZ are being consulted again on this strategy in mid-October.
Minister McClay and senior officials remain optimistic that the FTA negotiation with the EU remains on track post Brexit. Senior Negotiator Martin Harvey has been visiting key EU capitals over the last week to test the level of commitment and to advocate for the commencement of negotiations.
The Prime Minister held talks with his UK counterpart in New York and it is clear that the UK continues to be interested in an eventual negotiation with New Zealand. There had been some concern expressed in the media that Australia might be stealing the march on New Zealand, but this does not seem to be the case. The Australian Trade Minister appears to be overly enthusiastic about what might be achievable in the short term. The fact is that the UK cannot legally begin negotiations on a FTA with anyone until the exit from the EU is complete. The process for this exit has not yet been triggered and could take several years.
MFAT Deputy Secretary Dr David Walker PhD and WTO Ambassador Vangelis Vitalis visited the UK recently to provide advice to the UK Government on bilateral, regional and global trade policy developments.
The Obama Administration remains committed to attempting ratification of TPP in the “lame duck “period immediately post the Presidential election. There remains a chance that they will be successful. New Zealand Ambassador to the US Hon Tim Groser puts the chances of success at close to the 50% mark. We suggested that it might be closer to the 10-20% range.