The Horticulture Export Authority sees Japan joining the Trans Pacific Partnership trade negotiations as the best chance of getting rid of the costly tariffs that Japan imposes on fruit and vegetable imports.
Japan is New Zealand's most valuable export market for horticultural products. It delivered 23% of the sector's total export earnings last year, with a value of $518 million.
But those exports were hit with tariffs of about $34 million, ranging from 3% for squash and capsicums, and more than 6% for kiwifruit to as high as 23% for apple juice.
Horticulture Export Authority chief executive Simon Hegarty said a quick phase out of those charges would be expected if a TPP deal succeeds.
He said it's a great opportunity because it's been difficult to engage Japan on a bi-lateral, one-to-one basis with New Zealand.
"New Zealand has not been their highest priority to do free trade deals with, so this move creates the potential for us to reduce the barriers that we otherwise wouldn't have had, so it's very timely."