The European Union and New Zealand said on Tuesday (10 January) they aim to launch free trade negotiations as soon as possible and to conclude the talks far more quickly than is normal – possibly in two to three years.
The EU’s capacity to seal trade pacts has come into question because of the EU-Canada deal called CETA. Negotiators spent more than five years to conclude talks and CETA is still awaiting approval over two years later.
New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English told reporters after meetings with top EU officials that the parties had agreed to launch free trade negotiations as soon as possible in 2017 and to conclude them “fairly promptly”.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker believed talks could be wrapped up much quicker than normal.
“Normally it takes between five, six, ten years. I think two or three years would be enough because we have very similar situations. We are friends, we are allies,” he said.
The European Union is New Zealand’s third-largest trading partner and trade between the two was some €8.1 billion ($8.6 billion) in 2015, with transport equipment and machinery dominating EU exports and live animals the main export from New Zealand, according to Commission data.
For the EU, New Zealand ranks 49th in its list of trading partners.
English would not be drawn on whether New Zealand expected to get a better trade deal with Britain, with which it has long-running ties, after Britain’s departure from the European Union.
“They will have those negotiations with the EU and when they are ready we’ll negotiate with the UK,” he said.