Peters: Commonwealth leaders excited about trade agreement

Winston Peters has said that Commonwealth leaders are excited about a putting a 53 trade agreement together, and want to start before the United Kingdom leaves the European Union next year – but I don’t think the UK can start trade deals until they are out of the EU.

RNZ: Excitement over Commonwealth-wide free trade agreement

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters is talking up the prospect of a free trade agreement between all 53 commonwealth nations after discussions in London over the weekend.

New Zealand is already working on trade agreements with Britain and the European Union as Brexit looms, but Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters said there was a lot of excitement at CHOGM about a possible free trade agreement between all the commonwealth nations.

He said leaders want to get started on the deal before the UK leaves the EU next March.

“There’s a whole lot of excitement about that and how we might begin to put some flesh to an idea, which was levelled two years ago, but since 23 June 2016 it’s become real and so that was very exciting.

“A whole lot of countries – without saying too much about it – realise there’s something very exciting and new about this,” he said.

That’s an odd statement – he thinks they are all excited without saying much?

It would be a big task putting a deal together with so many countries. It would need to be quite general and could be relatively limited. Otherwise there could be a lot of inter-country details to work out.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said there was potential in the deal, but New Zealand’s main focus was on the EU and UK Free Trade Agreements – which represent $15 billion and $5bn in trade.

“That’s where we’re focused, but at the same time we do see there being benefit to us continuing to nudge along the fact that where we have these platforms – as we have with the East Asia summit and the Pacific Alliance – that actually the platforms provide a good starting point for a discussion around trade.”

Ardern is one leader who doesn’t seem as excited as Peters suggests, but maybe she could get absolutely excited at nudging it along.

The UK and EU agreements are expected to take years to work out, and if the main focus is on them then a Commonwealth wide agreement could take a long time – quite possibly longer than Peters is a Minister.

National Party trade spokesperson Todd McClay said he was hopeful of Commonwealth discussions, but was wary of so many players being involved.

“India hasn’t done a high-quality free trade deal with any country of the world yet, it would be really good if they would do one with New Zealand.

“I’m just a bit cautious around how much progress could be made Commonwealth-wide, because the more parties you put around a table the greater the challenges. We saw that with TPP,” he said.

Mr McClay also said any notion that a Commonwealth deal could be struck before Brexit took place was impossible.

“That’s just not going to happen – TPP with just 12 countries took nine years to negotiate, the countries were similar, the Commonwealth are very different types of economies and very different parts of the world.

“It is worth us being part of that conversation and helping to move it forward, but it can’t go before our desire for a free trade agreement with the UK and with the European Union,” he said.

It may be difficult for Peters to sustain his excitement.

8 Comments

  1. Blazer

     /  April 23, 2018

    McClay talks nonsense…’TPP with just 12 countries took nine years to negotiate, the countries were similar, the Commonwealth are very different types of economies and very different parts of the world.’….how were the TPPA countries …’similar’ as a measure?

  2. This doesn’t surprise me:

  3. David

     /  April 23, 2018

    As we have seen from the WTO doing trade deals with many diverse economies s impossible, McLay is right. We wont get an EU deal ever, we may at a pinch get one with the UK but its a bloody longshot..getting better access would be a better approach first.

    • Blazer

       /  April 23, 2018

      did they ask Paula the obvious…’what experience do you have in this field,and what do you actually know about trade deals?…her standard reply is….’nothing’!

      • David

         /  April 23, 2018

        She was part of a government sitting in a cabinet that did free trade deals with Hong Kong, Singapore, Maalysia, South Korea and upgraded the China FTA. She was gracious enough to compliment Ardern for her diplomacy and is supportive because it is in NZ incs best interest now compare that with your teams behaviour in opposition..disgraceful and they flip flopped within 2 minutes of assuming power.

        • Blazer

           /  April 23, 2018

          lets look at one…this FTA with Sth Korea…when and what are the..details?