WELLINGTON, N.Z. – Trade officials in New Zealand are optimistic about forthcoming free-trade negotiations with South Korea and India. Mike Petersen, chairman of Meat & Wool New Zealand, and Bill Falconer, chairman of the Meat Industry Association say the talks are important to ensure trade in what are two very distinct markets.

"If comprehensive, high-quality deals can be concluded, these will be a great achievement by our trade negotiators" Mr. Petersen said.

According to Mr. Falconer, South Korea and India represent very different prospects, but both potential free-trade agreements offer significant opportunities for New Zealand sheep and beef farmers and meat processor-exporters.

South Korea is New Zealand’s second-largest market for beef, importing more than 40,000 tonnes last year. It is also a market where New Zealand faces high tariff and technical barriers to trade, Mr. Petersen said.

South Korea is also an important export destination for the same meat products from the U.S. and Australia. Given that the U.S. has already concluded F.T.A. negotiations with South Korea, and that Australia like New Zealand is about to enter into F.T.A. negotiations, a potential New Zealand-Korea F.T.A. will enable New Zealand meat exporters to compete on a level playing field, the men said.

India, however, is a completely different proposition for New Zealand. "While we do send some hides and skins to India, we are currently unable to export meat due to Sanitary and Phytosanitary restrictions and high tariffs. While a large proportion of the Indian population does not eat beef, Indians are traditional consumers of sheep meat," Mr. Falconer said.

"An F.T.A. that allowed for the export of sheep meat would effectively create the opportunity to tap into a market of over a billion consumers. This would clearly create significant new export opportunities," he added.

Mr. Petersen cautioned, however, that the sector needs to be realistic about the time frames associated with trade deals of such magnitude, especially with India, where much new ground would need to be broken.

"Farmers and exporters should be excited about these deals and look forward to their conclusion, but bear in mind that the time frames are measured in years, not months," he added.

It is important to take the time to get these deals right to ensure comprehensive high-quality deals are achieved, Mr. Falconer said.

"Our organizations will be sitting down with officials to describe the sort of deals that would provide the greatest benefits to the sector," he added. "Our objective is always to have all tariff and non-tariff trade barriers eliminated as quickly as possible."

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