Trade Minister David Parker says despite our small size, New Zealand could play a pivotal role in negotiations between two of the world's largest economies.
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"We're trying to position ourselves, to a certain extent, as the bridge between China and the US," Mr Parker told Newshub Nation on Saturday.
"In the last three weeks, I've been to Washington, Ottowa and to China and recently to the APEC negotiations and I've done that because we have a bit of a reputation as the honest broker and it's times like this we should draw upon that reputation."
The Minister has just returned from meeting with other world leaders at the Asia-Pacific Economic Conference (APEC) summit in Papua New Guinea, one of many high profile trade talks over the past two weeks.
Vice President Mike Pence took the unusual step of requesting a seat next to Jacinda Ardern during a dinner at APEC, fuelling hope that the meeting would result in New Zealand being granted an exemption from US steel tariffs.
The exemption has yet to be granted, however - and the Trade Minister admits it may be growing less likely.
"The Prime Minister raised it with Vice-President Mike Pence, I raised it when I was in Washington. You have to say that the longer it goes on the less likely it is that it will be solved."
Some progress was still made at APEC however, with New Zealand, Canada and Chile reaffirming their commitment to the Inclusive Trade Action Group - an agreement to work together to promote sustainable and equitable trade.
But there was also bad news for our trade ambitions - with the announcement the 16 countries negotiating the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) had failed to reach an agreement.
While there was some hope for a resolution in RCEP discussions this year, negotiations have been pushed into 2019. The Minister, however, remains optimistic.
"They announced substantial progress instead of a substantial conclusion."
He says with the World Trade Organisation under threat; other agreements become more important and the Government was "not willing to close bad deals".