Damien O’Connor: Opening new markets for our farmers and growers

Opinion 07/11/2019

By Damien O'Connor, Minister of State for Trade and Export Growth, Labour MP for West Coast-Tasman.

The Government’s China free trade agreement upgrade and work to complete RCEP shows our commitment and ambition to open new markets for our farmers and growers.

We want to help our farmers and growers get great returns for the products they pour their hearts and souls into.

We want all Kiwis to benefit through a strong economy.

These are turbulent times in the global trading environment, but New Zealand is leading the way and playing to our strengths as an honest international broker with top-quality products to export.

Our primary sector exports - at $46.4 billion in the year to June - are at record levels and we want to we protect that valuable trade through keeping market doors open despite some markets unilaterally raising protectionist measures.

To meet the challenge of protectionism head on we’re taken a strategic approach to pave the way for our products, which is where the China FTA upgrade and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) are so important.

RCEP has been a particular focus for me. It is one of the world's largest trade pacts and will anchor New Zealand in a regional agreement that covers almost half the world’s population and markets that take more than half our total exports.

After seven years of negotiations, this week we achieved a milestone.

The completion of negotiation on the text as well as agreement on virtually all market access issues between 15 countries.

Bringing all of these nations into a single agreement has enormous benefit to New Zealand exporters, including less red tape and easier access for our products.

The RCEP participants take 61 per cent of our goods exports and 50 per cent of our services exports. RCEP is of considerable commercial and strategic value to New Zealand.

Negotiations on market access will continue with the aim of the full agreement being concluded and signed in 2020. We are seeking market access for all of New Zealand’s key export interests across all sectors.

RCEP has the potential to provide us a free trade relationship with India, a large and fast-growing US$2.7 trillion economy. Leaders of the 16 RCEP countries will work with India to resolve its outstanding concerns.

The aim is that India will join the agreement in 2020, once it has concluded market access negotiations with all the other participants

The RCEP work sits alongside our relationship with China where the FTA upgrade will make trade more seamless and guarantees we have the best trading agreement with China into the future.

As a country so heavily dependent on trade, we are always looking to diversify our trade portfolio. Agreements like RCEP and the China FTA upgrade will help us grow our export markets and diversify our trade, for the good of all New Zealanders.

Damien O'Connor is Minister of State for Trade and Export Growth and Labour MP for West Coast-Tasman.