Prime Minister Bill English has talked down the possibility of a free trade agreement with the United States.
Following high-level meetings in the US, Trade Minister Todd McClay yesterday said the US has indicated it is open to an FTA with New Zealand "when the time is right".
English today said that was unlikely to be anytime soon.
"The way the US has framed their trade policy - which has been they will do things that very much benefit the US - indicates it would be quite difficult to get an agreement that would benefit us," English told Mike Hosking on Newstalk ZB.
"So we wouldn't do an agreement like that at any cost. But of course keeping the US interested in trade, with a high quality agreement, is in our interests. But it just could take a while."
McClay has been in the US to meet the new US Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer, US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Congressman David Reichert.
Ross had indicated he is open to a trade deal and didn't see any major issues in the way, McClay said yesterday.
"It's clear the US will take time considering its trade strategy. They're likely to have a considerable workload over next couple of years with NAFTA renegotiations and some big bilateral deals to do. However, I've welcomed their interest in an FTA as a demonstration of the good shape our trading relationship is in."
US President Donald Trump has withdrawn the US from the TPP, a 12-country pact that had been the top trade priority of the Obama Administration. Trump has promised an "America first" approach to foreign policy and trade.
During his visit, McClay briefed US officials on the progress of the TPP minus the US. Japan has assumed leadership to get the other 11 countries to keep the deal going, with a final decision on its future likely to be made at the Apec leaders' summit in Vietnam in November.
McClay said Lighthizer told him he wanted to work with New Zealand on international trade policy issues.
Last year New Zealand exports to the US were valued at $5.6 billion and imports from the US were valued at $5.7 billion.