'Ball in UK's court' to make sure agricultural products included in free trade deal - DCANZ

Damien O'Connor is the Minister of Agriculture and Trade and Export Growth.
Damien O'Connor is the Minister of Agriculture and Trade and Export Growth. Photo credit: Getty

As free trade negotiations between New Zealand and the United Kingdom progress, the Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand (DCANZ) says the "ball is in the UK's court" when it comes to making sure agricultural products are part of the deal.

On Thursday, Damien O'Connor, who is the Minister of Agriculture as well as of Trade and Export Growth, said New Zealand and the UK had agreed to "rapidly lift the tempo of talks" around a free trade agreement (FTA), with the goal being able to finalise the deal in the coming months. 

The fourth round of negotiations wrapped up last week and chief negotiators between the two countries will now meet monthly, with the next formal rounds of talks scheduled for June and July.

But DCANZ executive director Kimberly Crewther says she understands the market access the UK has offered to date, especially in terms of agricultural products, "falls short of the ambitions for the agreement".

"The dichotomy between the UK's political rhetoric and its reported offers for agriculture is deeply disappointing," she said.

"At the heart of this negotiation is the question of how the UK chooses to treat New Zealand.  Will it allow New Zealand's dairy community to participate in this trade on a level playing field? Will British consumers and food manufacturers be given the same opportunity to choose high-quality New Zealand dairy products, produced under equivalent animal welfare standards and with a lower carbon footprint, as they currently have for EU imports?"

O'Connor said a number of chapters of the agreement were either finalised or substantially advanced during the talks that concluded last week.

However, he said he made it clear to UK Secretary of State or International Trade Liz Truss there was still a "significant amount of work to ensure the market access outcomes, particularly for agriculture, reflect the ambition we have jointly set for the FTA".

Crewther said the importance of tariff removals "should not be underestimated in achieving inclusive trade benefits from this agreement".