Dubai: The New Zealand government is likely to ratify a free trade agreement with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states within 12 months, a senior official said.
Negotiations on the New Zealand–GCC Free Trade Agreement (FTA) successfully concluded on October 31 in 2011 following six rounds of negotiations.
“We have concluded our negotiations on the free trade agreement with the GCC countries two years ago and expect this to be ratified by our government within the next twelve months,” Steve Jones, Consul General and Trade Commissioner of New Zealand, told Gulf News.
“We are satisfied with the deal being negotiated, and if implemented, the FTA with the GCC will help our gross domestic product (GDP) to grow by up to 1.5 per cent.”
With two-way trade between New Zealand and the GCC standing at around $3.23 billion, the GCC is New Zealand’s seventh largest trading partner. Its exports to the GCC last year reached $1.2 billion (Dh4.4 billion), including $423 million to the UAE, of which nearly 75 per cent was dairy products.
The UAE, which joined the World Trade Organisation in 1996, has bolstered its trade links and interaction with global economies. It has been participating in various trade negotiations and fulfilling many of its obligations.
The UAE is bound by various trade, economic and technical cooperation agreements with 12 countries in Asia, 8 countries in Africa and Europe and two in South America and Australia.
“As part of the GCC’s negotiation team, it is currently holding agreement talks to establish free trade zones with the European Union, Japan, China, India, Pakistan, Turkey, Australia, New Zealand, Korea and the Group of Mercosur which include Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay,” a UAE government spokesperson, said.
“The UAE has also concluded the negotiations and the signing of free trade agreements with Singapore, European Free Trade Association (EFTA), Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, the Principality of Liechtenstein and New Zealand.”
Jones said, the FTA would help increased flow of goods and services and investment bothways.
Bilateral trade between the UAE and New Zealand last year reached $738 million (Dh2.7 billion). UAE’s exports to New Zealand last year reached $315 million, mostly oil and petrochemical products.
Saudi Arabia is the country’s biggest export market in the GCC, representing 45 per cent of its exports to the six-nation bloc.
New Zealand’s annual exports last year stood at $38.72 billion while its total imports reached $37.88 billion.
Agriculture, farming and tourism are the main contributors to the country’s $114.23 billion GDP. However, as the country’s farmland bank has already been exhausted, it is looking at alternative ways to increase exports.
“One of them is to try and increase productivity per hector taking a value-added approach and buy agricultural farmlands in other countries — which is something that the GCC countries are also looking at,” Jones said.
“This an area where we see a strong potential for partnership where New Zealand could lend expertise and know how in agricultural production to these new farms and help the GCC countries in strengthening food security,” he stressed.