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UAE and New Zealand will begin FTA talks tomorrow

posted on 18/03/2006: 2339 views

The UAE and New Zealand are expected to begin talks on a free trade agreement (FTA) tomorrow, a top Government official said. The negotiations are part of the Kiwi government's plan to hold FTAs with GCC states, Phil Goff, New Zealand's Trade and Defence Minister, told Gulf News on Wednesday.

He will hold talks with Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, UAE Minister of Economy, tomorrow that will focus on strengthening economic cooperation and trade. "The GCC countries have made suggestions to sign FTAs with us. We are closely looking at the ongoing UAE-Australia free trade talks," he said.

"In my discussions with Sheikha Lubna we will explore opportunities for economic cooperation that benefit both countries, including the FTAs." Several thousand New Zealanders live and work in the UAE, but only 15 companies have set up their operations in the UAE so far.

The value of trade between the two countries reached Dh1.8 billion ($500 million), the minister said. "The UAE is our second biggest market in the Middle East. "However, we see increased potential in economic cooperation and development as there is a strong air link now between Dubai and New Zealand," he said.

Dubai-based Emirates, which operates four daily flights to New Zealand, is seeking more traffic rights to Down Under a move fiercely opposed by both Air New Zealand and Qantas, the Australian national carrier. Both airlines are pressuring their governments not to grant additional traffic rights to Emirates, which is eating into their market shares on the Australia-New Zealand routes to Europe.

Emirates offers one of the best connections between Australian and European cities through its Dubai hub. The minister, however, downplayed the issue. "The fact that Emirates operates 28 flights a week is a testimony to our acceptance of the airline's services.

"There is an air services agreement between the UAE and New Zealand that governs the traffic between the two countries. "The air services agreement could also feature in our discussions with the UAE," he said.

Goff said his country is keen to export its technical know-how on maritime sectors, timber-based construction as well as the IT and telecom sectors. "Besides, we are one of the largest producers and exporters of meat and dairy products to this part of the world. In the coming years, we plan to expand in those areas," he said. (Gulf News)


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