New Zealand and the European Union launched free trade talks on Thursday (29 October) that would give the small farming nation open access to Europe’s 500 million consumers.
The move was announced during a visit to Brussels by New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, where he met European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk.
“Today we committed to start the process for negotiations to achieve swiftly a deep and comprehensive high-quality Free Trade Agreement,” the three leaders said in a joint statement.
“Discussions to define the scope and overall approach to the negotiations should start as soon as possible,” they said.
In 2014, New Zealand placed 51 on the list of the EU’s most important trading partners. The EU stood as New Zealand’s third largest trading partner, after Australia and China, as New Zealand focuses increasingly on Asia.
Total trade in goods between the EU and New Zealand was 7.9 billion euros ($8.67 billion) in 2014, according to the European Commission. The EU is New Zealand’s third largest trading partner after Australia and China.
Earlier this month, New Zealand signed the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) after years of talks giving New Zealand potential access to a market of more than 800 million customers in the Asia-Pacific region.