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Sunday Jun 18 2017

New Zealand optimistic of free trade deal with US

New Zealand's Trade Minister Todd McClay in Vietnam May 22, 2017. Photo: Reuters 

The United States has indicated it is open to a free trade agreement (FTA) with New Zealand, New Zealand's trade minister said on Sunday.

Todd McClay visited Washington for high-level trade talks with the administration of US President Donald Trump this week, meeting with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, newly appointed US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and other advisors to the president.

“I've welcomed their interest in an FTA as a demonstration of the good shape our trading relationship is in," McClay said in a statement.

McClay said his center right government wants free-trade agreements to cover 90 percent of goods exported by 2030, up from just over half currently, and the US will be an important part of achieving that.

Two-way trade between the two countries reached $16 billion in 2016, making the United States New Zealand’s third-largest individual trading partner, according to New Zealand’s ministry of foreign affairs and trade.

New Zealand's $180 billion economy depends on exports, and the country lobbied hard in favour of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

Alongside Japan and Australia, New Zealand is trying to negotiate a deal with the 11 remaining countries of the TPP after the United States withdrew.

Trump dumped membership of the TPP as one of his first acts in an "America First" policy aiming at bringing manufacturing jobs back to the United States.

He said he would seek one-on-one trade deals with countries that would allow the United States to quickly terminate them in 30 days "if somebody misbehaves."

McClay said he had a constructive meeting with Lighthizer and said Ross indicated he saw no major impediments to a trade deal with his country.

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