NZ gunning for dairy access in UK FTA

·2-min read

Trade Minister Damien O'Connor says New Zealand can match - and potentially beat - Australia's access and tariff reductions on dairy, beef and lamb in its own free trade agreement with the United Kingdom.

New Zealand is expected to follow Australia's lead and ink an in-principle trade deal with the UK next month as it negotiates its post-Brexit economic future.

Mr O'Connor recently travelled to Europe - visiting London, Paris and Brussels - on a trade mission aimed at pushing New Zealand deals along.

"We've picked up some momentum. We're pleased with progress," Mr O'Connor told AAP from his stay in quarantine back in New Zealand.

"By the end of August we'll be in a position to perhaps reach agreement on principle.

"We're ambitious for that. But we need to ensure that what we're moving towards is actually commercially meaningful and and official."

Front of mind for New Zealand are key agricultural industries.

New Zealand is a minor economy but a major global dairy producer, making market access for milk powder, cheese and other dairy products a chief focus for negotiators.

Australia's deal included tariff-free imports for dairy products after five years - something Mr O'Connor wants to beat.

"We'd expect better. It's up for negotiation by the negotiators," he said.

"We're ambitious for that. We'll be pushing for it. We will expect the same."

Australia also negotiated vastly improved market access for both beef and lamb, as well as a phasing out of tariffs after 15 years.

"Here we would expect similar outcomes to Australia," Mr O'Connor continued.

The Australian deal, franked last month with an elbow-bump by visiting Prime Minister Scott Morrison and British counterpart Boris Johnson, also extended labour rights in the UK.

The rite-of-passage working holiday visa now allows visiting Australians three years in the UK, and is accessible until the age of 35.

The commonly held view is that British negotiators expect New Zealand to piggyback off Australia's outcome, but Mr O'Connor was less bullish on this aspect.

"That issue is relatively new to negotiations so we've committed to work through those issues," he said.

"The conditions around access have changed many times over the years. This will be an opportunity to improve that on a reciprocal basis.

"We're facing different challenges with immigration and movement of people and so all that will be taken into consideration."

Despite his fortnight-long stay in an Auckland quarantine hotel, Mr O'Connor said his trip was worthwhile, suggesting another trade mission in October was likely.

"The next few weeks will give an indication of the true value of the visit. So far it's very positive," he said.

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