Prime Minister John Key says a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade deal will not be signed in 2012 and a 2013 deal was only "possible".
There is no meeting of TPP members planned at this year's Apec. Key said one reason for that was President Barack Obama's absence.
Speaking ahead of a bilateral meeting with Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak at the Apec leaders summit in Vladivostok, Key said it would be interesting to see what new entrants such as Canada had to say about the TPP.
Malaysia is a part of the 11-nation TPP talks, along with New Zealand and the United States.
He said Apec still held to the ambition for a free trade deal covering all 21 member economies, but the TPP, which does not include China or Japan, was the furthest advanced.
New Zealand was also a member of the nascent ASEAN plus-six grouping, which does include China and India, but Key said he saw it and TPP as complementary rather than rival free trade blocs.
New Zealand already has an free trade agreement with China and is negotiating with India. However, it does not have a deal with the United States, making the TPP more important to New Zealand.
This evening Key will hold talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
He said the free trade deal between New Zealand and Russia and its customs union partners Belarus and Kazakhstan would be top of the agenda, along with the situation Syria.
New Zealand has lined up with those countries who have criticised Russia and China for vetoing United Nations' resolutions over Syria.
Key said New Zealand was concerned at atrocities and the huge uncertainty in that country.
"We owe it to the people of Syria to raise that issue."
Key said he would not lecture Putin, but would seek Russia's perspective on Syria and why it was vetoing UN resolutions.
He would also ask: "If the Security Council is not the answer, what is?"
In the limited 30 minute window for talks with Putin - 15 minutes for each side - he was unlikely to raise the issue of jailed punk artists Pussy Riot.
New Zealand's position had been registered through diplomatic channels, Key said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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