Exporters have only a few more months until they can begin to reap the benefits of New Zealand’s free trade agreement with the European Union.
Trade Minister Todd McClay said legislation ratifying the agreement is one of the government’s top priorities after Parliament resumes on January 30.
“I would hope that we could get it into Parliament within the first few sitting weeks and then get it through the process as quickly as possible,” McClay said.
The legislation will then be referred to the Foreign Affairs and Defence Select Committee, which will invite submissions from the public.
McClay said he expects the period for submissions to be relatively short given the agreement itself has already been through the select committee process following the conclusion of negotiations in the middle of 2022.
The European Parliament passed implementing legislation in late November but the agreement’s entry into force was delayed while the NZ Parliament took a break prior to October’s General Election.
McClay said exporters will begin to reap the benefits of increased access to the EU market of 450 million people once implementing legislation has been passed and NZ has ratified the agreement, which he expects to be some time in either April or May.
McClay said it is disappointing that the previous Labour Government had not given ratifying the deal a higher priority.
“For some reason Labour didn’t introduce the bill before the election, which would have meant it might have been in force already.
“The point being is we want it in force as soon as we can because the Europeans have done their bit and we just now need to do ours.”
While the agreement delivers minimal improvements in market access for dairy and beef exporters, there are larger gains for many second-tier exporters.
Tariffs of 8.8% on kiwifruit exports, costing $50 million a year, will disappear on the agreement’s entry into force, while the current tariff of €0.15 ($0.27) per litre on the majority of NZ’s wine exports will also be scrapped at the same time.
Overall tariffs on 91% of the products exported to the EU will be eliminated on the agreement’s commencement, rising to 97% of products after seven years.
In return, tariffs are scrapped on key EU exports to NZ, including pork, wine and sparkling wine.
NZ producers of some products with European names such as feta cheese and Elia Kalamata olives will also face new restrictions on continued use of those names both in NZ and in overseas export markets.