Tuesday 24th April 2018
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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is cautiously optimistic about New Zealand's pursuit of a free trade agreement with the European Union, with the nation's focus on environmental protections finding favour with French President Emmanuel Macron.
Speaking at her weekly post-Cabinet press conference since returning from the trip to Europe and the UK, Ardern said her primary goal of the trip to Europe was a successful meeting with Macron, with France traditionally resistant to opening its agricultural sector to international competitors. New Zealand hopes to secure a mandate for formal free trade negotiations with the EU next month, although Ardern said there's still work to be done with a number of EU members, particularly on agriculture.
"To have had such a positive response from President Macron definitely caused me to come away feeling really positive with our position - much more so than perhaps I did prior," Ardern said. "I came away with the sense that we would be able to see support from their corner on that agreement."
Trade Minister David Parker this month announced an upcoming consultation on the government's new trade agenda, which wants trade policy to support a range of wider social goods, including environmental issues. He's previously cited an EU trade deal as an opportunity to pursue a "gold-standard" deal, with environmental and labour standards areas of shared values.
Ardern today said those environmental priorities were a "selling point" with Macron, and that the sense she "got both publicly and privately was a real interest in embedding into our agreement some of the domestic priorities into an international framework".
Government figures show New Zealand's exports to the EU grew 6.4 percent to $5.2 billion in the 12 months ended Feb. 28 and imports climbed 15 percent to $10.66 billion.
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