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Companies hurting without ROK trade pact: New Zealand PM


16:13, July 29, 2013

WELLINGTON, July 29 (Xinhua) -- New Zealand urgently needs a free trade agreement with the Republic of Korea (ROK) as New Zealand businesses are hurting in the competition in the ROK marketplace, Prime Minister John Key said Monday.

Key told an audience from the New Zealand chamber of commerce in Seoul that the two countries had agreed to resume stalled negotiations on an FTA after he held talks with ROK President Park Geun-hye in Seoul Friday.

The ROK is New Zealand's fifth largest trade partner and the two countries have held four rounds of negotiations on an FTA since talks began in 2009, but the elimination of tariffs on agricultural products has been a sticking point.

New Zealand posed no threat to the ROK farming sector as there was no competition in sensitive agricultural sectors like rice and New Zealand produce competed mainly against other imports to the ROK, Key said in the published speech.

"I am mindful that New Zealand has completed agreements with China, ASEAN, (Chinese) Hong Kong and most recently Chinese Taipei, and Japan has just joined TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) negotiations. Korea too has completed a range of major FTAs and is negotiating others. We need to get our deal done to ensure that the bilateral trade relationship keeps pace with the trade relationships we have with other countries," Key said.

"There is also the risk of growing disadvantage. While the current two-way trade figures seem healthy, we know that New Zealand firms are hurting as they are gradually disadvantaged by Korea's preferential trading arrangements with existing FTA partners," he said.

"No relationship, no matter how strong, can afford to stand still."

Both countries are also involved in negotiations on the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) FTA in the East Asian region, which began this year.

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