Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

John Key to meet with French Prime Minister

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls will meet with John Key on Monday. Photo / Bloomberg
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls will meet with John Key on Monday. Photo / Bloomberg

France's famously aggressive farming lobby and Helen Clark's bid for the UN Secretary General job will be top of the agenda in Prime Minister John Key's meeting with French Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Monday.

Mr Valls arrives on Sunday afternoon for the first visit by a French Prime Minister since 1991, when Michel Rocard delivered an apology for the Rainbow Warrior bombing as part of an arbitration settlement.

Mr Key said a free trade agreement with the European Union would be a key part of the talks. Negotiations on that are yet to begin, but there has been an agreement to consider formalising talks. "One of the big issues will be any pushback from the agriculture lobby which is likely to be strongest in France. So I'll be addressing that issue with the Prime Minister."

He would also raise Helen Clark's bid for the Secretary General. France is one of the five Permanent Members on the Security Council, which will have its first straw poll on the nominees in July.

Mr Key said the permanent members rarely showed their hands publicly and he did not expect France to. However, he had discussed Clark's run with French President Francois Hollande in Washington recently. "He said that it was very early days for them, but they certainly were not negative towards Helen Clark."

Mr Key said he also intended to discussing free trade in his meeting with India's President Pranad Mukherjee on Sunday afternoon. It is the first ever visit by an Indian President.

New Zealand began free trade negotiations with India in 2010 but talks have moved slowly.

Mr Key said getting a trade agreement with India was important because of its growing middle class. "The demographics of India are very similar to China, but the level of trade is multiples more in China."

As well as trying to get a bilateral free trade agreement New Zealand and India are among the 16 countries negotiating the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) - an agreement including the 10 ASEAN countries as well as China, Korea, Japan, India, Australia and New Zealand. In June, New Zealand will host the next round of talks on RCEP in Auckland. The original aim was to sign the agreement by the end of 2015 but the leaders are now expected to agree to a new date on the sidelines of the Apec meeting this year. Trade Minister Todd McClay said it would be the largest trading bloc in the world in terms of population - the countries involved had a combined population of more than three billion people. "It would not be in New Zealand's interests to stand aside from a negotiation that covers at least 55 per cent of our merchandise exports." The countries involved include six of New Zealand's top ten export markets.

- NZ Herald

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