New US Ambassador to NZ Tom Udall has free trade agreement on his radar

The United States' brand new Ambassador to New Zealand is making encouraging noises that a free trade agreement (FTA) with the US could finally happen.

Tom Udall is spending his first days in the job after being appointed by US President Joe Biden.

Aotearoa is his new land of opportunity.

"I love it, to start with I absolutely love it," Udall said.

Udall spent 12 years in the US Senate representing the state of New Mexico. He's a champion for the environment and has close bonds with Native American tribes.

That's something he also wants with Maori.

"I'm going to listen a lot," he said.

An FTA between New Zealand and the US is also on his radar.

"We like to trade, so we should be interested in engaging with them and discussing what we can do."

It's something our Government is being urged to push for.

In a briefing to ministers in May, officials said "we propose to draw US attention to the lack of FTA involving New Zealand by stressing our interests in trade diversification, and the gap in our economic relationship".

They warned not having one is a significant gap in our trade profile.

"It's $10 billion-worth of trade in each direction, it's our third-largest trading partner," said the NZ International Business Forum's Stephen Jacobi.

"The US is an indispensable partner for New Zealand across a range of issues, and we would very much like to have some sort of free trade arrangement with them."

Udall said an FTA wouldn't necessarily happen "immediately", but it's "something I want to engage in and something I'd really like to work with".

Trade Minister Damien O'Connor said in a statement that free trade with the US is a long-standing goal, and they've been encouraging the US to engage in our region.

He says recent discussions around an Indo-Pacific Economic Framework have been positive.

They're discussions that could eventually get an FTA over the line.