Thursday, May 30, 2024

Trade Minister departs for Europe, US

Trade and Export Growth Minister, Damien O’Connor will travel to Europe and the United States tomorrow for talks with key partners, and to attend the G20 Trade Ministers’ Meeting in Italy.

It follows recent engagement between Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen to progress a free trade agreement with the European Union (EU-NZ FTA).

“Securing a high-quality and comprehensive free trade agreement with the EU represents a huge opportunity for New Zealand exporters, opening up a market with a population of close to half a billion people,” Mr O’Connor said.

The EU is New Zealand’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, contribute to New Zealand’s COVID-19 recovery, and to help build a more resilient export profile.”

“In line with New Zealand’s Trade for All Agenda, we are pursuing outcomes that will deliver for all New Zealanders.

“These meetings will also provide an important opportunity to build momentum and seek consensus ahead of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) in November,” the Minister said. 

Mr O’Connor will be accompanied by Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade Deputy Secretary and Chief Negotiator for the EU-NZ FTA, Vangelis Vitalis.


During the visit to Europe, Mr O’Connor will be travelling to Sweden, France, Ireland and Italy where he will meet with counterparts to discuss the benefits of closer co-operation, including to advance progress towards conclusion of the EU-NZ FTA.

Following his visit to Belgium in June, a meeting has also been scheduled in Brussels with Valdis Dombrovskis, the European Commission’s Executive Vice-President and Trade Commissioner.

“I have had a number of constructive calls this year with European counterparts across the Union and I have been encouraged by the ambition that they share with New Zealand on the FTA.”

“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.

“During this visit I will be reinforcing New Zealand’s expectations and our strong commitment to work with the EU to conclude the negotiations as soon as possible.”

Mr O’Connor will also be travelling in his capacity as Agriculture Minister.

“I am also honoured to represent New Zealand at the G20 Trade Ministers’ Meeting, which Italy has invited me to attend in my role as Chair of the APEC Meeting of Ministers Responsible for Trade,” he said.

“This is an important and rare opportunity for New Zealand as a small nation to engage in the G20 format. I believe it reflects well on the broader work Aotearoa New Zealand has undertaken this year as Chair of APEC.”

In addition to bilateral engagements in France, the Minister will be participating in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Ministerial Council Meeting in Paris from 5-6 October. He said New Zealand’s participation in the meeting will also be a useful opportunity to engage with Mathias Cormann, the OECD’s new Secretary-General, as well as other members of the Organisation, including those from outside of Europe.

United States

En route to Europe, Mr O’Connor will undertake a series of engagements at the end of this week in Washington, D.C., including with the US Trade Representative, Katherine Tai.

This will be the first visit by a New Zealand Minister to the U.S. since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The United States is New Zealand’s third largest trading partner, a key source of high-quality investment and one of our most important international partners. In Washington, I will be talking to US counterparts about how we can work together to keep our bilateral trade and economic relationship on its current growth trajectory.”

“This visit will also be a chance to exchange views on multilateral trade issues in the lead up to the MC12, our objectives for APEC, and to discuss our shared interest in making trade more inclusive and sustainable,” he said.

The Minister and his travelling delegation have been fully vaccinated and will comply with any host government COVID-19 restrictions and testing requirements. Upon return to New Zealand on 15 October, they will complete 14 days of MIQ.

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