Former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at EU headquarters in Brussels in this file photo. – AFP
Former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at EU headquarters in Brussels in this file photo. – AFP
EU-NZ trade pact gets Brussels’ final green light

BRUSSELS: Brussels on Monday gave the final green light for an EU-New Zealand trade deal that, while mutually lowering barriers for both markets, highlights the recent failure of EU-Australia negotiations. The European Council, representing the EU’s 27 member countries, said it adopted the New Zealand pact, setting it up come into force “probably in early 2024” once Wellington ratifies it. The deal provides for a phased-in slashing of duties on New Zealand imports of lamb, beef, wine and fruit such as kiwifruit, while European exports, including machinery and vehicles as well as chocolate, wine and biscuits, would likewise benefit.

Two-way trade in goods and services is currently worth 9.1 billion euros (US$10 billion) but is expected to grow by 30 percent over a decade with the new deal. New Zealand’s government estimates that the deal could bring in an extra US$365 million annually from exports of its beef, sheep and dairy products. The EU, with its population of 450 million, is the third-biggest export market for New Zealand, population five million. The deal is not without critics in Europe. France’s beef and dairy sectors, for instance, have voiced wariness about New Zealand products coming from land using pesticides or herbicides banned in the European Union.

The European Commission, though, has stressed that all food reaching the EU market has to comply with EU standards and vowed a “robust” system of checks. The passage of the New Zealand trade deal stood in contrast with the collapse last month of a much-bigger accord the EU had been negotiating for six years with Australia.

Those talks, aimed at expanding trade currently worth 56 billion euros, fell over agricultural issues. One issue was how far Europe was willing to open its market to Australia’s lamb, beef and sugar imports. Another was to what extent Canberra was willing to adopt EU geographic indicators given that Australian producers currently made goods under names Brussels wants to make exclusive to European regions. Brussels is at work trying to seal another, even bigger trade deal with South America’s Mercosur bloc, where two-way trade is currently 98 billion euros. — AFP

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