The European Commission has announced that negotiations for separate FTAs with Australia and New Zealand have begun.
Commissioner for trade Cecilia Malmström said: “We look forward to adding Australia and New Zealand to the EU's ever-growing circle of close trading partners. We are already close in terms of shared values and our open, global outlook.
“Together, we will now negotiate win-win trade deals that create new opportunities for our businesses, as well as safeguard high standards in key areas such as sustainable development. I am looking forward to visiting Canberra and Wellington in the coming weeks to officially launch our negotiations. Starting these talks between like-minded partners sends a strong signal at a time where many are taking the easy road of protectionism.”
The first negotiation rounds are expected to take place in Brussels in July.
New Zealand exports around NZ$3.3bn of goods to the EU, with meat high up on the list of products exported.
Beef and Lamb New Zealand chief executive Sam McIvor said an FTA would create a “level playing field”.
“The FTA will create a stable and level playing field which is crucial to the growth and future prosperity of the sheep and beef sector and New Zealand as a whole.
“Over 600,000 New Zealand jobs directly depend on international trade, with the red meat sector alone employing over 80,000 people in New Zealand. All these jobs depend on our ability to export competitively and in a stable and predictable trading environment.”
Meat Industry Association chief executive Tim Ritchie added: “New Zealand pays approximately NZ$53 million in tariffs per year on its red meat exports to the EU.
“A number of competitors, such as Canada, already have an FTA with the EU, and New Zealand is only one of six World Trade Organization Members without an EU FTA in place or under negotiation.
“New Zealand has long-established relationships with the European red meat sector. Our red meat exports complement seasonal production in Europe so that customers can buy high-quality red meat all year round.”
Australian Meat Industry Council CEO Patrick Hutchinson also welcomed the announcement. “We know that European consumers value Australian meat products very highly for their consistent and predictable quality. Low-volume import quotas have meant we haven’t always been able to meet demand, so we’re excited by the opportunity this could bring,” he said. “Trade agreements with Australia and New Zealand would provide EU businesses with a valuable entry point into the wider Asia-Pacific region and put European companies on an equal footing with those from the other countries in the area that have signed up to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.”