US/NZ free trade deal mooted during Todd McClay's White House visit
A Free Trade Agreement between New Zealand and the United States is on the horizon, according to New Zealand Trade Minister Todd McClay.
McClay is currently in the United States as the first New Zealand minister to meet with the Trump administration in the US, holding talks with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
Speaking from Los Angeles in the wake of the White House meetings, McClay said Ross indicated he was open to an FTA with New Zealand.
"It's some years away but I welcome that as an endorsement of the trading relationship," McClay said.
"They're certainly open to an FTA when the time is right."
McClay said the US had a considerable workload on trade matters, including NAFTA negotiations, but the early signalling boded well for New Zealand.
His meetings with Lighthizer had been especially positive.
"He's Trade Minister for the world's largest consumer economy, so to see him three times in a month is really good for New Zealand," he said.
"He wants to work closely with us, especially on the Asia-Pacific region. They think both sides should grow."
McClay said his US counterparts were also interested in New Zealand's trade relations in the growing Asia Pacific region.
The talks would go a long way to the Trade Agenda target of having 90 per cent of New Zealand goods trade covered by FTAs by 2030.
"The US will be an important part of achieving this goal and my discussions this week in Washington are encouraging."
McClay said scope exists for boosting both trade and investment in the US.
"Two-way trade with the US reached $16 billion in 2016. This is an incredibly wealthy market with huge opportunity for New Zealand businesses. Trade Agenda 2030 means the Government will increase efforts to help New Zealanders do more in countries like the US," he said.
McClay also used the visit to extol the virtues of New Zealand as a tourism destination, presenting keen angler Lighthizer with some fish flies made in Rotorua, as well as a book on fly fishing from the Rotorua Anglers Club.
He said Lighthizer said he was eager to visit New Zealand, and threw in a sweetener ahead of a possible trip to Rotorua's Lake Tarawera.
"I said I'd let him catch the biggest fish," he said.