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US shows interest in trans-Pacific trade deal

Published: 8:42AM Sunday November 15, 2009 Source: Newstalk ZB/ONE News

Prime Minister John Key has personally thanked US President Barack Obama for agreeing to negotiate a free trade deal that includes New Zealand.

The two leaders met at the APEC conference in Singapore which is winding up on Sunday night.

In a major breakthrough, the United States gave a commitment to negotiating a trans-Pacific deal with eight countries including Australia, Singapore, Vietnam, Peru and Chile on Saturday.

Negotiations were expected to start overnight (NZ time) and an agreement could be in place by 2011, Key said.

For New Zealand that means big economic gains, and effectively a free trade agreement with the world's largest economy.

"We had quite a fruitful discussion and I thanked him for the progress on trans-Pacific partnership. He said he was looking forward to working with New Zealand and making progress on the trade front," says Key.

Key is confident the deal with the US will include agriculture, which would mean selling more goods like beef and butter into the US with lower or no taxes on these goods.

Key says the Americans are keen and work will begin immediately on the deal.

He says there is a desire on the American side to make progress, and New Zealand's negotiators will be ready to pick up the challenge too.

Key says the American commitment is an acknowledgement trade is the answer to moving the world out of recession.

New Zealand already has a raft of trade deals across Asia but the US market still seen as crucial.

NZUS Council chief Stephen Jacobi says the partnership gives us the opportunity to negotiate for the big prize - a Free Trade Agreement with the US.

Jacobi says it is good news for New Zealand and for the rest of the Asia-Pacific region.

In a speech in Tokyo, US President Barack Obama said his government was committed to a trans-Pacific trade partnership with with the goal of shaping a regional agreement with broad-based membership and high standards.

New Zealand currently has Trans-Pacific partnership with Brunei, Chile and Singapore, which may be a starting point for the FTAAP. This alliance is the only trade pact that links both sides of the Pacific.

Federated Farmers has welcomed the news that the US may take part in the partnership saying it is turning away from its isolationist trade policies.

The partnership, it says, represents well over 12% of New Zealand's merchandise exports.