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

Key presses French for help on UN seat, free trade

Prime Minister John Key remained pessimistic about New Zealand's chances of a free trade deal with the EU in the near future after his meetings with with French President Francois Hollande and Prime Minister Jean-Marc.

Mr Key spent a day in Paris yesterday, meeting President Hollande for the first time at the Elysee Palace.

Mr Key said he had "pitched strongly" for moving from a partnership agreement with a minimal economic focus to a free trade agreement.

"Realistically, I think we've got a bit of work to do."

There was significant cross-investment between France and New Zealand, examples of which included Air New Zealand buying Airbus planes, to a smart device games app creator setting up a base in New Zealand.

"The indication we got is it's not off the table forever, but we are going through a process which will take some time. There's an understanding that for countries with such a shared history that should happen."

Mr Key said he had congratulated President Hollande for the strong stance France had taken on Syria and the two discussed the possibility of Syria now handing over its chemical weapons.

"I think we are both united in the view that we hope it does."

Mr Key has a double mission on his Europe visits to the United Kingdom and France: to try to get votes for New Zealand's bid for a non-permanent seat on the Security Council in 2015, and to kickstart free trade talks with the EU.

After his meetings overnight, Mr Key said New Zealand was "really hopeful" of securing a seat although it was up against tough competition from Spain and Turkey.

Mr Key said that as one of the five permanent members on the Security Council, France was unlikely to declare who it was supporting for the seat.

"All we did was lay out our credentials and appealed to their sense of fairness, that is New Zealand's turn this time for the 2015/16 period. We've got a great relationship with France and hopefully it will turn out well for New Zealand."

He would not be drawn on the impression Hollande had given him, but said it was a historic and strong relationship.

"For instance, one of the things we talked about is the way we'll be commemorating World War One."

He said New Zealand was not taking a win at all costs approach - it was not throwing in big money to try to win votes, and would not change its approach on Syria simply to improve its odds on the Security Council.

He said it was important New Zealand was predictable in its foreign policy.

"So if the question is are we going to tailor our message simply because we are bidding for a seat on the Security Council, the answer is no.

"If we believe we have to stand up against a regime that is killing its own people, New Zealand is going to do that even if it costs us our seat on the Security Council."

- NZ Herald

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