McClay plans to make more out of existing free-trade deals

Todd McClay's proposal comes a week after John Key rebuked his trade minister for "dancing on the head of a pin".

Trade Minister Todd McClay will hit the public hustings, giving people the opportunity to have their say on a shift in making the most out of the free-trade deals New Zealand already has.

In a speech to the Trans-Tasman Business Circle in Auckland, Mr McClay outlined a planned shift in trade policy strategy, which would see more effort put in extracting greater gains from completed free-trade agreements, which currently cover 52% of national exports and would rise to 72% if the Trans-Pacific Partnership gets over the line.

"Having invested heavily in building what you might call 'architecture,' the fact that the majority of our exports go to markets that are now covered by FTAs means in future we are likely to spend less effort looking to negotiate new agreements and more effort on implementing and upgrading our existing agreements," Mr McClay said in published speech notes. "As part of the process for the refresh of New Zealand's trade policy strategy, we will hold public meetings in the main centres, open to all New Zealanders, to provide an opportunity to hear their views."

Mr McClay's proposal comes a week after Prime Minister John Key rebuked his trade minister for "dancing on the head of a pin" in answers he gave to both Mr Key and the media when news of alleged trade threats from China over steel imports broke.

Other areas where Mr McClay said he expected to see a shift were reducing non-tariff barriers to trade, recognising the growing importance of the digital economy and putting more effort into assisting New Zealand firms to compete successfully against foreign companies.

Mr McClay said the World Trade Organisation was the best forum to simplify global trading arrangements by setting an international framework all nations can operate under.

(BusinessDesk)

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