Trade Minister Todd McClay says his visit to Washington for high-level trade talks with the Trump Administration has been a success and that the U.S. has indicated it is open to a free trade agreement (FTA) with New Zealand when the time is right.
Mr McClay met with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, newly appointed U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Congressman David Reichert, Special Advisors to the President and members of the US Chamber of Commerce.
Mr McClay says Secretary Ross has indicated that he is open to a trade deal with New Zealand and did not see any major issues, as our relationship was in good shape.
"It's clear the U.S. will take time considering its trade strategy. They're likely to have a considerable workload over next couple of years with NAFTA renegotiations and some big bilateral deals to do. However, I've welcomed their interest in an FTA as a demonstration of the good shape our trading relationship is in," Mr McClay says.
"Trade Agenda 2030 sets an ambitious target of 90 per cent of our goods trade being covered by FTAs by 2030. The U.S. will be an important part of achieving this goal and my discussions this week in Washington are encouraging."
USTR Robert Lighthizer also told Mr McClay he was keen to work with New Zealand on international trade policy issues.
"This was my 3rd meeting with Ambassador Lighthizer since his confirmation just over a month ago. I have a great deal of respect for Robert and believe that New Zealand will be able to work closely with him on trade."
Mr McClay says there is significant interest in New Zealand's approach to trade policy. Congressman Reichert and members of the U.S. business community said they had admiration for how we had opened our markets and made the most of the opportunities in the Asia Pacific region.
"They recognise we are number one in ‘ease of doing business' and were impressed with the strong performance of our economy,” Mr McClay says
Mr McClay says there is considerable scope to grow trade and investment with the U.S.
"Two-way trade with the U.S. reached $16 billion in 2016. This is an incredibly wealthy market with huge opportunity for New Zealand businesses. Trade Agenda 2030 means the Government will increase efforts to help New Zealanders do more in countries like the U.S.," Mr McClay says.