New Zealand businesses are telling government it is time to start the serious work of negotiating a free trade deal with the European Union.
A trade agreement with the 28-member EU is a glaring omission among New Zealand's catalogue of trade deals, but with a combined population of about 500 million and the European bloc already this country's third-biggest trading partner, the opportunities are seen as numerous and lucrative.
New Zealand International Business Forum executive director Stephen Jacobi said the forum wanted politicians to take the first steps to a comprehensive deal.
"The most important thing at this stage is that we, on both sides, demonstrate a value proposition for this ... negotiation. We explain clearly why it would be, in our case in New Zealand's interests, and our colleagues in Europe need to do the same."
Mr Jacobi said a clear sticking point to a trade deal would be the access of New Zealand agricultural produce into Europe.
But he said a selling point is that it would give the Europeans access to China and South East Asia, with whom New Zealand has trade agreements but the EU does not.
"We want to combine that European investment with New Zealand's productive base and our access, and the world is becoming much more focused on these complicated value chains and networks. They already exist between New Zealand and Europe in different ways. We want to expand them so we can do new business together."
Mr Jacobi said a new European trade policy was expected to be unveiled in the near future and that would be the ideal time to start the preliminary moves to free trade talks.