UAE and New Zealand to launch talks for a free trade deal

SYDNEY (Reuters) - New Zealand and the United Arab Emirates will begin negotiations over a free trade agreement, the Pacific nation's trade minister said on Tuesday.

Trade Minister Todd McClay met his UAE counterpart in Dubai to announce the start of talks on a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, according to a statement from his office on Tuesday.

"The UAE is an important bilateral partner for New Zealand, and today’s launch of negotiations is an exciting step towards growing our significant trade and economic relationship," he said.

The UAE is New Zealand's largest trade partner in the Middle East and exports hit NZ$1.02 billion ($613 million) in the year to September 2023, up 17% from the year before, according to New Zealand foreign ministry data.

New Zealand is also in talks for a free trade agreement with the Gulf Cooperation Council, a regional body of six whose members include the UAE, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

McClay said he discussed the talks on his visit to Saudi Arabia last week.

A free trade deal with the European Union came into effect on May 1 after New Zealand ratified the deal in March.

($1 = 1.6633 New Zealand dollars)

(Reporting by Lewis Jackson; Editing by Michael Perry)