New Zealand has scored a major trade coup, becoming the first country in the world to start negotiating a free trade deal with Russia.
The decision to officially begin negotiations was announced last night by Prime Minister John Key and Russian president Dmitry Medvedev following a one-on-one meeting between the pair during this weekend's Apec summit in Japan.
Trade Negotiations Minister Tim Groser would not put a figure on the potential gains for New Zealand exporters, saying any predictions would be speculative.
However, Russia is seen as an increasingly well-off society with burgeoning demands for consumer goods. It already imports large quantities of food.
Groser said the deal was all about "future-proofing" New Zealand, which exports around $180 million worth of goods to Russia each year, mainly butter sheepmeat, fish and cheese.
Much of the deal has already been "pre-cooked", meaning substantial progress has already been made.
New Zealand was also the first country to secure a free trade agreement with China, which has seen two-way trade nearly double since it came into force.
Russia's motivation for the deal is to prove itself as a responsible trading partner and boost its case for membership of the World Trade Organisation.
New Zealand gets special access to a rapidly growing and increasingly wealthy consumer maket.
Meanwhile, the Apec "silly shirt" tradition for leaders was to be extended to spouses this year.
Bronagh Key was measured for a kimono designed by Japanese fashion maestro Hiroko Koshino. John Key was not sure how his wife would look.
"If they have Bronagh versus Michelle Obama, she [Bronagh] will look like the Hobbit," he said, referring to the difference in height between the two first ladies.By John Armstrong Email John