Russia may be key in NZ free trade goal

The Government has announced a plan for New Zealand's export goods to be 90 percent free trade by 2030, but there'll be some big hurdles to meet the goal, the Minister of Trade says.

A key part of reaching that goal will be striking a deal with Russia, even while Vladimir Putin is leader.

"It's not about any personality as far as a Government's concerned," Trade Minister Todd McClay told The Nation on Saturday.

"Do we want to do a deal with Russia? Yes, we do, at an appropriate time when things are possible. At the moment that's not the space we're in, but over a 10-12 year period lots of things may well change and the Russian market is a priority for New Zealand exporters."

In 2014, then-Prime Minister John Key put free trade negotiations with Russia on hold in protest against its military moves on the Crimean Peninsula. The deal was close to being signed off.

Mr McClay says protectionist policies like those under US President Donald Trump's new administration are one of the main difficulties in reaching the 90 percent free trade goal.

"Protectionism put in place around the world is not good for New Zealand, and that's because our economy relies upon our ability to export. Part of the reason we want to be ambitious around who we trade with is so that we're not reliant on any one part of the world."

Despite the US pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Mr McClay says there are still plenty of opportunities to make a fresh deal with Mr Trump.

"We've always had a very strong relationship with the US and in trade we've worked very well together. We can work with the new administration in the US on trade. We're going to have to build the relationship, as we have every time there's been a new President."

Export New Zealand's Catherine Beard says some of New Zealand's key products are being hampered in the international market.

"We tend to be disproportionately negatively impacted by tariffs because most of the highest are around agricultural exports. If we manage to get to 90 percent tariff-free that would be a real shot in the arm to the New Zealand economy.

More than $91 million will be invested toward achieving the 2030 goal.