20 Jun 2007

New Zealand and Australia push for Pacific free trade deal faces opposition

3:14 pm on 20 June 2007

The push by New Zealand and Australia to make progress on a free trade agreement with Pacific Island countries is being opposed by an NGO, Oxfam.

The New Zealand trade minister, Phil Goff, says he's asked the Forum to look at how progress can be made on removing trade barriers in the region.

But, Oxfam's Barry Coates says there needs to be a complete shift in the way the two countries are approaching the issue.

He says pushing for a free trade agreement when countries are at different levels of development could harm those which open their markets.

Mr Coates says there is already a massive trade surplus in New Zealand's favour.

"Really, the issue here is not about leveraging a little bit more trade. The issue really ought to be about recognising our common interests and the Pacific becoming a more prosperous, more stable and more sustainable region, and that means supporting the Pacific, not trying to pursue our commercial interests to their disadvantage."

Barry Coates.

Last year, New Zealand's exports to the Pacific amounted to 1 billion NZ dollars while its imports from the Pacific were only 135 million dollars.