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New Zealand in free-trade push ahead of China Premier Li visit
March 23, 2017 / 10:54 PM / 6 months ago

New Zealand in free-trade push ahead of China Premier Li visit

New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English during news conference at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, January 16, 2017. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English on Friday announced a renewed push to promote free trade in his first major trade policy announcement since taking over as leader last December.

New Zealand’s $180 billion economy depends on exports, and the country lobbied hard in favour of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. It wants to push for an expansion of a free-trade agreement with China at a meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Monday.

English said on Friday his centre right government wants free-trade agreements to cover 90 percent of goods exported by 2030, up from just over half currently.

“The biggest threat to our economic success at the moment is disruption of international trade,” English said at a business event in Auckland on Friday.

The new policy includes funds for an expanded trade bureaucracy, including new diplomatic posts in Dublin and Colombo.

The New Zealand government is in the process of negotiating trade deals with the Gulf states and the European Union.

English’s remarks echo comments from New Zealand’s Reserve Bank governor, Graeme Wheeler, who earlier this month said U.S. protectionism was the greatest source of uncertainty for the world economy.

The announcement comes ahead of a general election in September, with English’s National party currently leading opinion polls.

Reporting by Tom Westbrook; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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