WELLINGTON, Sept 29 New Zealand and the Gulf
Cooperation Council will work to get a stalled free trade pact
back on track after trade ministers from the Pacific nation and
Saudi Arabia agreed to deepen trade ties.
New Zealand Trade Minister Todd McClay met his Saudi Arabian
counterpart Majid bin Abdullah Al Qasabi this week, with the
two leaders agreeing to push for an early completion of the deal
that was wrapped up in 2009 but never ratified.
Chief Executive Officer of New Zealand's Meat Industry
Association Tim Ritchie said an FTA would allow New Zealand to
maintain its competitive position in these markets.
"Certainty around tariff free access would ensure a greater
sense of certainty for future trade," he said.
In a joint statement, the two ministers said the trade
relationship would continue to expand once the pact is finalised
and agreed to continue efforts to achieve its early completion.
The next step would be for GCC countries to meet and for New
Zealand officials to meet with the GCC Secretariat and member
countries in order to finalise the agreement, McClay said.
Export New Zealand Executive Director Catherine Beard said
the move was a positive one.
"Gulf States were good markets for New Zealand's food and
beverage exports and reducing tariffs on dairy, meat,
horticultural and other products would help New Zealand's
competitiveness in those markets," she said.
Dairy giant Fonterra Co-operative Group Ltd, the
world's largest dairy exporter, was also upbeat and said the
deal would create opportunities for its food services business.
Two-way trade between New Zealand and the Gulf Cooperation
Council, which includes Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates,
Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain is worth about NZ$3 billion
($2.19 billion) annually and the GCC is New Zealand's sixth
largest trading partner.
New Zealand's main exports to the region include dairy,
sheep meat and wood, key components in the Pacific nation's
Beard noted that the FTA could also open up markets for
services in areas such as education and information and
Nathan Penny, rural economist for ASB Bank, said any
progress was welcome.
"If we can make some ground on this one, while some like the
Trans-Pacific Partnership and others stall, this is some good
news to offset some of that," he said.
($1 = 1.3716 New Zealand dollars)
(Reporting by Rebecca Howard; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)