Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

Saudi Arabia free trade deal to be completed

Trade Minister Todd McClay announced the stalled trade deal will be completed. Photo / Ben Fraser
Trade Minister Todd McClay announced the stalled trade deal will be completed. Photo / Ben Fraser

A stalled free trade deal with Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries will be completed, Trade Minister Todd McClay has announced.

McClay and his Saudi Arabian counterpart have agreed to work towards the early completion of the FTA with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

"This is an extremely pleasing outcome from my mission to Saudi Arabia. We can now see a way forward towards the completion of the FTA," McClay said after a two-day visit to Saudi Arabia.

"The next step is for GCC countries to meet and for my officials to get together with the GCC Secretariat, as well as member countries, to finalise agreement."

The GCC is made up of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain.

A free trade deal between New Zealand and the GCC was concluded in 2009 but has not been signed or ratified largely because of Saudi objections to New Zealand's ban on live sheep exports, which affected Saudi investors.

The controversial agri-hub that Foreign Minister Murray McCully set up in Saudi Arabia - and is being probed by the Auditor-General - was designed to reduce the irritant in the relationship and reduce a perceived legal threat.

Prime Minister John Key met with the Saudi Arabia deputy Prime Minister, Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Nayef Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, while in New York last week and on the sidelines of leaders' week at the United Nations General Assembly.

The Government said two-way goods trade with the GCC region is worth over $3 billion annually, which includes over $1 billion of trade with Saudi Arabia.

New Zealand exports about 5000 tonnes of beef to Saudi Arabia each year and around 3,000 Saudi students study in New Zealand.

- NZ Herald

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