19 May 2009

Free trade deal with US facing uphill battle

8:33 pm on 19 May 2009

A New Zealand free trade agreement with the United States received a boost from a senior official from the Obama administration on Monday, but still faces an uphill battle in Congress.

Ron Kirk used his first speech as the US trade representative to outline his support for the Trans-Pacific regional free trade deal which includes New Zealand.

Mr Kirk's comments are the clearest signal yet from the Obama administration that it backs former President George Bush's pledge to start negotiations.

US trade officials postponed negotiations with the six-country bloc in March, pending the outcome of a review of the new administration's trade policy.

Mr Kirk also called for a new approach to break the impasse in the Doha round of multilateral free trade talks, which have been stalled since July last year.

However, anti-globalisation group ARENA says both negotiations face stiff opposition from US politicians who are anxious the deals will cost American jobs.