Could a New Zealand/UK trade agreement be on the cards?

Legislation | | MIC Customs Solutions |

New Zealand has opened up a consultation on a trade deal with the UK.

A new free trade agreement between Britain and New Zealand could be forthcoming as soon after Brexit as possible after the latter published a call for written submissions on a potential deal.

The government of New Zealand has said it wants to seek stakeholders' views on the subject and has invited them to comment through its website on how they think negotiations should progress.

International trade secretary Dr Liam Fox has said he is delighted that the first steps towards an agreement have been taken, although no formal talks can begin until after Britain leaves the European Union in March 2019.

New Zealand is the second country this month to launch a consultation concerning post-Brexit trade deals, with the US having done the same thing just a few weeks ago.

Dr Fox commented: "This will help to create jobs in both our countries and give consumers greater choice at lower prices, as well as pulling British businesses closer to the rapidly-growing Asia-Pacific region."

New Zealand's trade and export minister David Parker called Britain one of New Zealand's "oldest friends" and pointed out that their similar legal structures and history means a trade deal "makes a lot of sense".

"Both New Zealand and the UK have committed to launching negotiations as soon as the UK is in a position to do so," he added.

Last year, Britain and New Zealand traded some £2.72 billion worth of goods and British exports to the country increased by ten per cent.

It is expected that a new trade agreement would bolster this and provide benefits for both businesses and consumers.

On its consultation website, Mr Parker promised that New Zealand will be seeking an agreement that safeguards labour and the environment while also promoting gender equality and indigenous rights, in line with its Trade for All agenda.

He said the country is keen to reduce costs and barriers for New Zealand businesses that operate in the UK.

"As with all new trade agreements New Zealand makes, an FTA with the UK will include protections for the Treaty of Waitangi and maintain the government's right to pass laws in the public interest," he added.

Relations between the two nations have certainly improved since 1973, when Britain's decision to enter the-then European Economic Community effectively ended New Zealand's access to its markets.

At the time, New Zealand exported around half of its exports to the UK and many saw the decision as a betrayal, BBC News reported.

However, New Zealand took the opportunity to implement bold reforms in the 1980s that ended protectionism and opened up free trade deals with Australia, China and a host of other nations.

Today, farming, forestry and fishing are essential to New Zealand, as is the services sector. The relationship between the UK and the Antipodean nation has also been repaired to the extent that goods going to Britain accounted for 33 per cent of its EU exports in the three months ending March 2016.

Top exported commodities were lamb and wine, while top imported products were motor vehicles.

After Brexit, Britain will be New Zealand's fifth-largest services export destination and the fifth-largest services import partner, and it seems that the two nations are keen to continue to foster this strong partnership with a brand new deal going forward.