We are in a crucial time for the international trading system, made more acute as we deal with the economic and social consequences of the pandemic. Diversifying and deepening our trade links will play a key role in our economic recovery post-Covid-19.
That is why I was so pleased to announce on June 17, along with my UK counterpart Trade Secretary Liz Truss, the formal launch of talks on a free trade agreement between New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
The formal launch of these talks marks the start of an important new chapter in New Zealand's relationship with the United Kingdom and builds on the extensive work we have been doing in the broader trade sphere.
Earlier in June, we showed leadership on digital issues signing (fittingly online!) the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement alongside Singapore and Chile.
We hope other countries will join us.
Also in June we concluded the latest "virtual" round of talks with the EU — our third biggest trading partner.
Since the first impacts of Covid-19 became apparent we have joined a range of countries in committing to keep supply lines open for essential goods, especially medicines — a key factor in ensuring we have enough medical equipment, including test kits, for the fight against Covid-19.
I am optimistic that before the September election, efforts will also bear fruit in our Pacific neighbourhood and we will reach the required number of ratifications to bring the Pacer Plus trade deal into effect.
We also hope to see the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific partnership expand beyond its 11 members, which includes two G7 nations, Japan and Canada.
We note the strong interest shown by the UK in joining CPTPP.
We are in a crucial time for the international trading system, made more acute as we deal with the economic and social consequences of the pandemic.
The response to this challenge requires global cooperation, and trade has an important role to play in the international recovery just as it does for our own country.
One in four New Zealanders' jobs is dependent on exports, and we know that exporters employ more staff and pay better wages, boosting productivity and generating growth.
Given our history, it is fitting that New Zealand is one of the first countries to begin negotiations with the UK as it carves out a new and independent path following its departure from the European Union.
New Zealand and the United Kingdom share a particularly close bond.
The UK is already our sixth-largest trading partner, with two-way trade worth $6 billion.
The UK has similar interests to us in supporting an open and rules-based trading system, and we have similar institutions, complementary legal systems and many shared perspectives on trade issues. Together, those factors should make it possible for us to reach an agreement on a high quality FTA relatively quickly.
I would add that our geographical distance means complementarity extends to our seasonal produce.
We are seeking an FTA that delivers opportunities for exporters and businesses, through providing comprehensive and commercially meaningful market access by the removal of tariffs and reduction of other barriers to our goods and services.
We would like to make it easier for companies of all sizes to do business in the UK, including through digital means, and to establish a "level playing field" for New Zealand businesses trading, operating and investing in the UK market.
We look forward to UK consumers enjoying a top-quality New Zealand Sunday roast and a topping of our kiwifruit on a classic Kiwi pavlova.
Though a trade deal will benefit our important agricultural exporters, it will also create new opportunities for our growing high-tech and digital sectors.
It is also important that an FTA with the UK reflects New Zealand's Trade for All agenda on issues such as sustainable development (including climate change, environment and labour standards) and inclusivity, especially for Māori, women and small- and medium-sized enterprises.
We will also look to ensure the agreement preserves the right of governments to regulate in the public interest, including for the environment, education, health and the well-being of New Zealanders.
We are also mindful of the need to preserve the unique status of the Treaty of Waitangi in any FTA between our two countries.
And we will oppose the inclusion of Investor State Dispute Settlement provisions in the FTA.
Alongside the launch of negotiations, we are publishing an independent assessment of the views that New Zealanders have already expressed during initial consultations on a UK-New Zealand FTA.
We want to conduct this process in an open and transparent way, drawing on the expertise and views of New Zealanders to help shape the agreement's outcomes.
Negotiators will undertake regular consultation and engagement with Māori leaders, business and sector groups involved in trade with the UK, civil society stakeholders, and interested members of the public.
Growing our exports is crucial for creating a better economy, more jobs and a higher standard of living — perhaps more so now than ever before.
- David Parker is Minister for Trade and Export Growth.