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Last Updated:[02-06-2010 01:38:23 EDT] Zoom in Zoom out Back to Tradenews

NZ Reveals Game Plan on FTAs and Bilateral Trade Pacts

tradenews New Zealand Trade Minister Tim Groser's address while laying the groundwork for the FTA talks with Russia has unveiled a strategy that his country would possibly be effecting the early mover advantage in its future bilateral and regional trade pacts. The NZ's trade negotiations with Russia may eventually become the world's first FTA involving the latter, which is at the verge of the WTO accession.

The Trade Minister's words were marked by clear ideas on which the country's economic path would be paved in the coming years regardless of its size. He said NZ started its reform process 30 years ago with very high protectionist barriers but now was solidly centred on reciprocal trade liberalisation.

Groser shifted his focus from the FTA talks to WTO negotiations and expressed dismay over the inertia at the WTO. He said the WTO negotiating process was suffering from sclerosis, and criticized the WTO Director General’s use of the metaphor of having done 80 percent of the negotiation. He added that but last 20 percent or whatever number one chose to illustrate the remaining negotiating gap - was proving elusive.

He arrayed data on NZ trade policies including the collective effort in the early 1990s that it would not put all its eggs in the then GATT or now WTO basket. He pointed out since then, while emphasising multilateral trade policy, successive NZ Governments had aggressively and successively pursued a bi-partisan strategy of developing FTAs with economies which were either major trading partners or promised to be – i.e. the emerging economies.

"All projections suggest that in even twenty to thirty years' time, the countries with the largest populations will have the largest economies. We will be living in a truly multi-polar world in which we are highly likely to have four economic super-powers with huge populations (China, India, the US and the hybrid model of the 27 Member EU) plus a range of very significant economies on a second tier including Japan, Korea, Indonesia and, of course the other of the so-called 'BRICs' – the formulation that includes not just China and India but also Brazil and Russia", claimed Groser.

The gist of the address disclosed that NZ current FTAs including China, Thailand, Singapore and Chile and future FTAs or any other trade deals were and will be designed to follow an extreme application of what is called 'first mover advantage' strategy – getting in first, to avoid the possibility of being left to last.

NZ is the first developed country to have established a comprehensive FTA with China. Besides, NZ has negotiated a parallel FTA with Hong Kong – NZ is the only country in the world so far, other than China itself, to have such a relationship.

At a glance, the NZ-Russia FTA opens up business opportunities for not only the NZ dairy industry but also extend to other areas such as agro-tech, tourism and education. New Zealand’s exports to Russia are worth NZ$187mn ($127mn) last year, of which about two-thirds are dairy products. That’s just a fraction of the more than the $30bn of food Russia purchases annually.

By Jose Roy

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