The UK has launched a formal inquiry into free trade deals with New Zealand and Australia, saying such deals would be “quick wins” as it seeks to develop trade relationships ahead of its departure from the EU.
The Commons Select Committee will carry out the inquiry and said while the UK can’t legally negotiate new trade agreements while it remained a member of the EU, the Government was “already undertaking some work preparing for new agreements”.
It said the Secretary of State for International Trade, Liam Fox, had already identified Australia and New Zealand as “top priorities” for a trade deal.
New Zealand’s Trade Minister, David Parker, has also been meeting with UK politicians in recent weeks and stated his country was an obvious, low-risk choice.
The Committee said deals with New Zealand and Australia could bring broader benefits to “help expand UK trade in the wider Asia-Pacific region” and whether it could be “the spring board” for deals with other nations in the future.
Mr Parker said the UK and New Zealand shared a “lot of similarities” legally and constitutionally.
“We share an English language … in New Zealand we have a very good reputation for doing clear and well drafted free trade agreements that aren’t tricky.”
In a submission to the inquiry, the New Zealand government said the UK was one of New Zealand’s “oldest and closest friends”.
Despite that, the submission said, “ironically, New Zealand is one of only six World Trade Organisation members which do not benefit from a preferential trade arrangement either in force or under negotiation with the UK”.
New Zealand said it had an “extensive network” of trade agreements in the Asia Pacific which meant the UK companies were now “increasingly at a disadvantage in the New Zealand market vis-a-vis partners such as China, Korea and ASEAN countries”.
“Given the complementarity of our two economies and our deep bilateral ties, this is an anomaly that should be addressed as a matter of urgency,” the government said in its submission.
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