Talks of a free trade agreement (FTA) between Commonwealth countries is a waste of politicians’ breath, New Zealands’s export industry says.
ExportNZ executive director Catherine Beard said a multilateral trade deal between 53 countries was “too ambitious” with “a lot on the dance card” already.
Trying to get that many countries to agree on one deal would be a “long, hard, slow slog”, she said.
However, New Zealand should “never say never” because it was not a large enough market to look attractive to other countries. “Put it in the queue.”
The idea of a Commonwealth-wide free trade deal sparked “excitement” among leaders at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm) in London at the weekend, according to Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters.
Beard said dairy exporters were excited about a deal including Africa, a continent they viewed as a growth market.
But the Government’s international trade discussions should remain focused on the United Kingdom and the European Union trade deals already on the table.
Manufacturers’ Network chief executive Dieter Adam agreed, saying that from an economic perspective, the EU FTA should be top of the Government’s priority list, the UK FTA second and a Russia FTA third.
Peters’ previous mentions of a Russia FTA were parked.
Adam said FTAs that removed tariffs for New Zealand companies exporting goods were generally positive, but negotiating and eventually signing them took up a lot of government energy.
New Zealand has FTAs with China, Hong Kong, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Korea.
he Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), formerly known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, between New Zealand and 10 other countries including Canada, Japan and Mexico, was signed this year but is yet to come into effect.
The deal will save New Zealand exporters an estimated $222 million in tariff payments annually.
New Zealand and the EU formalised FTA negotiations last year, after the UK voted to leave the EU. Trade talks with India, a Commonwealth country, were also underway.
Adam said free trade agreements paid off for primary industry exporters, but were “not really such a big deal” for manufacturers.
International tariffs were highest for primary products such as dairy, meat, seafood and timber, products that New Zealand relied heavily on for export revenue.
An FTA signed with China in 2008 had been “significant” in reducing the cost to export New Zealand’s meat and dairy products, Adam said.
However, New Zealand-made manufacturing equipment was stung with extra compliance costs in countries where its safety standards were not recognised, he said.
Most FTAs did not include mutual recognition of cross-border standards for manufacturing equipment, therefore they were of little value to the industry, he said.
“The devil is in the detail,” Adam said.
He called for new FTAs to include mutual recognition of standards.
This article was originally published by Stuff.co.nz. Read the original here.
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