Free trade deal beckons as Putin invites Key to Moscow
UPDATE Sept 9: Russian President Vladimir Putin has invited John Key to Moscow next year, according to an RNZ report. The Prime Minister says by setting a date, the Mr Putin is indicating his seriousness about signing an NZ-Russia free trade deal.
After a two-hour delay at Mr Putin's end, the two leaders met in Vladivostok last night NZ time where both are attending the APEC summit.
New Zealand and Russia have been discussing a bilateral free trade pact for two years. Before last night's meeting, Mr Key had already dampened hopes that the APEC meeting would see a deal signed. Russia retains fears that NZ dairy products would flood its markets, leaving its farmers unable to compete.
The two men also discussed the situation in Syria, where Russia has blocked sanctions against the Assad regime. Mr Key questioned Russia's policy. Mr Putin reportedly pointed out the complexities of the situation, and said Russia approach Syria from a "different angle" to the US, Australia and NZ.
Separately, the Prime Minister confirmed there will be no meeting on the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement at APEC. Talks on the trade deal between 11 Pacific Rim countries, including Australia, the US, New Zealand and Russia have not taken place because US President Obama is not attending.
Pussy Riot off agenda as Key meets Putin tonight
Sept 8: A harsh sentence for Pussy Riot will be off the agenda when John Key meets Russian President Vladimir Putin at 7pm tonight NZ time.
Members of the band have been jailed for two years after staging a "punk prayer" in a Moscow cathedral in February. Many see the sentence as harsh, and a reflection of Mr Putin's authoritarian grip on the country.
Mr Key told NZ media traveling with him that while New Zealand has a different view of human rights, it had already been communicated through diplomatic channels.
"I have just thirty minutes so we have a lot to talk about – it's unlikely we will get to talk about Pussy Riot," Mr Key said.
Instead, the Prime Minister would be focusing on free trade, and the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement. Mr Key downplayed hopes of any immediate trade breakthrough, but expressed hopes the TPP could be concluded in 2013.
MORE: Read Stephen Jacobi's report from Vladivostock for NBR here.