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Trade to dominate PM’s UK visit


Prime Minister of New Zealand, Chris Hipkins (Photo RNZ)

Venu Menon
Wellington, April 2, 2023

At his post-Cabinet media briefing on 1 May 2023, ahead of his UK visit to attend the coronation of King Charles III, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said he would be focusing on “securing improved trade access for New Zealand exporters” into the UK market.

He said he would be meeting Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Friday to discuss trade, “our enhanced working holiday scheme, the war in Ukraine, and the UK’s role in the Indo-Pacific region.”

Hipkins is slated to attend events that “aim to raise the profile of our export goods in the UK market.” He identified trade as a “critical component of our economic recovery from Covid-19” and added the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the UK is crucial to New Zealand’s export-led recovery.

The PM described the UK as New Zealand’s eighth largest trading partner and a “key source of investment and migrants and tourists.”

Under the FTA, nearly all of New Zealand’s trade with the UK will be duty free, including for key products such as meat, butter, and cheese.

It is estimated that the FTA will boost New Zealand goods exports to the UK by over 50%, lifting New Zealand’s annual GDP by up to $ 1 billion a year, the PM noted. The FTA “could save around $ 37 million per year on tariff elimination from day one.”

Hipkins said while in London he would be convening a round-table discussion on climate change, “with a particular focus on adaptation and the resilience of horticulture and agriculture.”

He said Lord Deben, the chair of the UK’s independent committee on climate change, and former British High Commissioner to New Zealand Laura Clarke will be participants in that discussion. Clarke is currently the CEO of ClientEarth, an environmental law firm.

The war in Ukraine will be a priority consideration with Hipkins scheduled to visit New Zealand Defence Force personnel engaged in training Ukrainian troops “just outside of London.” The PM said he would be having a phone conversation with Ukrainian President Zelensky on Monday evening to restate New Zealand’s solidarity with Ukraine and “our ongoing condemnation of Russia’s egregious actions.”

The PM will round out his trip to the UK by holding bilateral meetings with the prime ministers   of Tonga and Canada, “as well as representing New Zealand at a range of official coronation engagements.”

Hipkins refused to be drawn into a debate on whether he was a monarchist or a republican.

“I think I’m on record as being a republican- you know, I think I’ve never made any secret of that. But I’ve also indicated it’s not a priority for me. It’s not something I intend to push. I think when New Zealanders are ready to have a debate about whether or not they want to become a republic, then, you know, I will just be one vote in that ……. It’s not something I intend to prioritise.”

The PM said the coronation was a significant international event and that “the king is our head of state, and until   New Zealanders take a decision otherwise, it will continue to be.”

Venu Menon is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Wellington.

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