15 Nov 2010

New Zealand, Russia to start free trade talks

6:51 am on 15 November 2010

The Government has confirmed talks on a free trade agreement with Russia will begin next year.

Prime Minister John Key made the announcement on Saturday at the APEC talks in Japan.

With a population of 142 million, Russia is the world's 12th largest economy and the fifth largest importer of food.

Mr Key says New Zealand's exports to Russia were worth $187 million last year - a growth of 250% during the past decade.

Mr Key believes there are further strong gains to be made in food, beverage, agritech, manufacturing and clothing exports.

He says Russia's huge population, and a growing number of wealthy consumers, present an excellent opportunity for New Zealand firms.

Formal trade negotiations with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan will begin early next year.

Federated Farmers President, Don Nicolson, says he supports the move, providing New Zealand growers get a good return from the deal.

Mr Nicolson says strengthening trading ties with growing economies, such as Russia, will help New Zealand maintain its standard of living.