I launched a trade policy dialogue with the New Zealand Trade Minister last October to consider how we can strengthen our economic ties. Last month, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister met the Prime Minister of New Zealand and agreed that preparatory work should be undertaken on the potential for an ambitious new free trade agreement between the UK and New Zealand, once the UK leaves the European Union.
I warmly welcome the early and constructive dialogue with our colleagues and friends in New Zealand. Will my right hon. Friend do all that he can to explore every opportunity for bilateral trade with New Zealand, including the natural synergies between our rural economies?
I very much agree. The UK exported over £1.2 billion-worth of goods to New Zealand last year, and opportunities for our rural businesses and farmers will be a very important part of our work as we take forward the dialogue with New Zealand, which I intend to visit over the summer months.
This year the British New Zealand Business Association, which exists to develop trade between our two countries, reaches its centenary. As someone who has worked in New Zealand, I have first-hand experience of the warmth that exists between our two countries. Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is hope for, and that we look forward to, a great increase in trade between our countries in the years ahead?
I certainly hope that will be possible, given the freedom that we will have outside the European Union to negotiate such a free trade agreement. It is not just our two countries that will benefit; all countries around the globe will benefit from the new global Britain and our attitude towards global free trade, with all the benefits it brings, especially to the world’s poor.
The Secretary of State will know that New Zealand is a land of 30 million sheep—there are six or seven sheep for every person—so has he discussed the impact of a trade deal with the leader of the National Farmers Union? It regards the combination of a 43% World Trade Organisation tariff on sheepmeat and increased market access for New Zealand as potentially fatal to our sheep farmers. How will he protect them?
As I said in answer to an earlier question, that will be an important part of our discussions. We will want to discuss how we do that with the NFU and others, but we also need to take something into account that does not seem to be mentioned very often, which is the interests of UK consumers in any trade deal that we come to.