A free trade deal between New Zealand and the European Union (EU) has taken a massive step forward.
A negotiating mandate has been approved by the EU, and Trade Minister David Parker says talks should get underway next month.
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"It's a really important initiative to us, absolute priority, and we're doing everything we can to smooth the way," he says.
EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström will visit in June to formally launch the talks, while the first discussions with the EU will take place in Brussels in July.
Last month, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she wants the deal with the EU to model progressive trade "to enhance and enforce our social and environmental objectives".
"New Zealand has been seeking a mandate for some time. It represents $15 billion worth of trade so it's hugely significant to us," she said.
The European Union (EU) is our third-biggest trading partner behind China and Australia.
The deal with one of the world's largest economies could increase our GDP by up to $2 billion, and lead to a 10 to 20 percent increase in exports.
But New Zealand's strong agricultural sector could be a sticking point during negotiations, 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," Stephen Jacobi of the NZ International Business Forum told The AM Show last month.
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."