White House 'catch-up': Winston Peters pitches free trade deal to United States

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister shakes hands with US Vice President Mike Pence.
Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister shakes hands with US Vice President Mike Pence. Photo credit: Twitter / Winston Peters

Winston Peters has pitched a bilateral trade agreement to the United States in a speech calling on the superpower to see New Zealand with "fresh eyes" when it comes to trade. 

"We have not made the progress on a bilateral trade agreement that we should have and New Zealand wants that to change," he said in a speech in Washington, DC. 

Peters went to the US to meet with Vice President Mike Pence at the White House where the pair discussed "progress on the NZ-US bilateral relationship". 

Peters, the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, last met with Mike Pence in December, for discussions he described as "beyond what we could have hoped for". 

Pence - known to be ultra-conservative - was a "personal figure" and "very influential", Peters told Magic Talk after his last trip.  

The latest meeting involves "advancing with our American partners our political and economic relationship with the United States", Peters said in a statement ahead of the trip. 

He said the meeting would also involve promoting the Government's commitment to "religious freedom, and to countering violent extremism worldwide". 

Peters said in a tweet Wednesday (NZ time): "Much obliged to [Mike Pence] for hosting the team at the White House for a catch-up and to discuss progress on the NZ-US bilateral relationship."

US Ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa, Scott Brown, also tweeted about the meeting. He said he looked forward to "increasing two-way trade and investment". 

Peters has said he's working towards securing New Zealand a free trade deal with the US, and in May he hinted to RNZ that progress had been made. 

"We have expectations that we have taken the matter a whole lot further recently."

New Zealand is also working towards a free trade deal with the European Union. New Zealand was the first developed country to sign a Free Trade Agreement with China in 2008. 

While in the US, Peters will meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Advisor John Bolton, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, and Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. 

The US is New Zealand's third-largest individual trading partner. It's a major market for agricultural products, and New Zealand's largest market for beef and edible offal worth over NZ$1 billion in 2016.

In August last year, US President Trump signed the KIWI Act. It will allow New Zealanders to apply for E1/E2 trade and investment visas.