23 Jun 2007

New Zealand government says its free trade push will not disadvantage Pacific nations

9:46 am on 23 June 2007

The New Zealand Trade Minister Phil Goff is rejecting claims from the NGO Oxfam that New Zealand is pursuing a trade deal to the detriment of Pacific Island nations.

Mr Goff wants Pacific trade ministers to consider including New Zealand and Australia in the Pacific wide common market envisaged in the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations, or PACER.

Mr Goff says New Zealand and Australian exporters should not be penalised if Pacific countries enter into deals with the EU which give preferential treatment to subsidised European manufacturers.

But he says New Zealand and Australia are not trying to put the smaller countries in disadvantageous positions.

"That's why we have said any move towards a regional free trade area would need to be measured, would need to be balanced by trade facilitation, building capacity in the Pacific, and so on. We are hardly likely to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in development assistance to the Pacific, only to try to damage it on the trade front. That is not our objective."