Government's NZ-UK free trade agreement hailed by Opposition, farmers and business community

Political differences have been set aside to acknowledge New Zealand's historic free trade agreement (FTA) with the United Kingdom. 

"In a time we find little to agree with the Government on, this is excellent work," said ACT deputy leader and trade spokesperson Brooke van Velden. 

"The UK is the world's fifth-largest economy, so trading with the UK is a highly significant opportunity to diversify our markets and raise prices for our producers."

"The National Party congratulates Trade Minister Damien O'Connor, his predecessors, and the many officials and industry participants who have worked so hard," said National's trade spokesperson Nicola Grigg. 

"We want to see New Zealand do well in the world and trade is our best opportunity to do that. "An immediate elimination of 97 percent of tariffs on our exports is unprecedented."

Waikato University Professor Al Gillespie, an international relations expert, described the FTA as "absolutely fantastic", joining a chorus of positive feedback. 

Tariffs, or export tax, will be eliminated from day one on 97 percent of products, including New Zealand's largest exports such as wine valued at $463.1 million, honey worth $74.9 million and onions worth $8 million. 

ACT deputy leader Brooke van Velden.
ACT deputy leader Brooke van Velden. Photo credit: Getty Images

"Without clear trading arrangements, improved market access and reduced tariffs, it is extremely difficult to export from the bottom of the world to larger economies like the United Kingdom," said Onions NZ chief executive James Kuperus.

At full implementation, modelling shows New Zealand exports to the UK will increase by up to 40 percent and increase GDP by up to $970 million, saving exporters an estimated $37.8 million per year. 

"Since the announcement of an agreement in principle between Australia and the UK in June, we have been hoping that New Zealand gets a deal of its own. Today we got there," said  Federated Farmers national president Andrew Hoggard.

"We congratulate the New Zealand team of negotiators, officials and politicians who have tenaciously pursued this deal. The result is impressive. It's a job well done."

National's trade spokesperson Nicola Grigg.
National's trade spokesperson Nicola Grigg. Photo credit: Facebook

The in-principal FTA will result in the full liberalisation of all trade between New Zealand and the UK, but it will involve transition periods for some agricultural goods. 

Cheese, for example, valued at $1.6 million, will be tariff-free after five years, and in the meantime will have a transitional quota of 24,000 tonnes increasing to 48,000 tonnes. 

Beef, valued at $4 million, will be tariff-free after 15 years, and in the meantime will have a transitional quota of up to 20,000 tonnes annually. 

Like Australia's deal with the UK, New Zealand has secured improvements to working holiday visas. This is separate from the FTA. 

The exact details are subject to final discussions but are expected to be similar to what's been announced between Australia and the UK. Under that agreement, the age limit for working holiday visas was increased from 30 to 35 and the time limit extended from two years to three. 

"This is not only a good deal for our goods exports to the UK, but has a lot in it for our services exporters, including business visas for travel, the intention to work on mutual recognition of professional qualifications, and no barriers for professional services businesses," said Export NZ executive director Catherine Beard.

"In a tough time of COVID-19, this is a shot in the arm."

Matthew Tukaki, chair of the National Māori Authority, said the FTA will be a significant opportunity for Māori, given an indigenous chapter acknowledges the Treaty of Waitangi as a foundational document of constitutional importance to New Zealand. 

It also includes a commitment by the UK to "identify appropriate ways to advance recognition and protection of the Haka Ka Mate", and "acknowledge Ngāti Toa Rangatira's guardianship of the Haka Ka Mate". 

"Agreements like this help Māori to economically develop even faster than we could have anticipated 50 years ago - this is our chance to both protect the foundations of our Treaty Partnership while also growing our aspirations and turning them into reality," Tukaki said.