NZ's trade links with Asia will appeal to EU - expert

New Zealand will be talking up its growing trade links with Asia in its talks for a free trade agreement with Europe, an expert says.

The European Union (EU) is our third-biggest trading partner behind China and Australia. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has spent part of her European tour pushing for a free trade agreement, securing the backing of French President Emmanuel Macron.

New Zealand's strong agricultural sector is seen as a sticking point, with European farmers fearing an influx of quality products could harm their livelihoods.

"I don't think that European farmers are necessarily going to want to welcome a lot more New Zealand exports of agrifood products to their markets, but this is the art of the deal, to quote a famous person," Stephen Jacobi of the NZ International Business Forum told The AM Show on Thursday.

New Zealand currently exports $11.4 billion of goods and services to the EU, and imports $16 billion.

Stephen Jacobi.
Stephen Jacobi. Photo credit: The AM Show

The deal is likely to involve deals for more European investment in New Zealand - Mr Jacobi saying New Zealand has access to markets in Asia which European firms could take advantage of.

"I don't think it's just about us selling agricultural products to Europe... It's about manufactured products, it's about some of the services and creative sector products that we can do. It's a range of different things."

In a piece written for RNZ on Wednesday, Mr Jacobi said the catch will be finding "ways to encourage European investment at a time when it seems less willing than its predecessor to open the gates".

As for Britain, Mr Jacobi said while it's unclear what policies the post-Brexit UK government would take, there's plenty of preparatory work that can be done in the meantime.

And as for the United States' re-entry into the Trans-Pacific Partnership, "I wouldn't hold your breath."

President Donald Trump last week expressed a desire to get the US back in the deal it quit early last year, but has changed his mind again, tweeting on Tuesday night it had "too many contingencies and no way to get out if it doesn't work".

"Would only join TPP if the deal were substantially better than the deal offered to Pres Obama ," he said.