After the G7 Summit took place in Cornwall last month, much attention has focused on how the UK would do in its efforts to secure trade deals with global partners in the wake of Brexit.
And, after the news that a deal with Australia was close, the UK is well advanced in its talks to secure a free trade agreement with New Zealand. New Zealand is already an important partner for the UK and a trade agreement can further increase our trading relationship, worth £2.3bn in 2020. The two countries remain on track to hammer out an agreement in the timetable originally laid out, with seven chapters so far closed, it would appear that progress remains steady.
“This is really important news,” says Paul Beare, who has carved out a niche as an expert adviser and facilitator of UK-NZ trade and investment. “The fact that the UK’s trade team are making such positive noises means that we can hopefully see an FTA finalised soon, which will increase the ease of doing business for those on both sides of the world.”
“I’ve spoken to the British High Commission in NZ and understand an exciting aspect of the FTA is what can be achieved on the services front, which covers a huge range of things from mobility, financial and professional services to the recognition of qualifications, portability of funds and digital trade and telecoms,” Paul says.
Negotiators are said to be keen to retain many of the existing conditions with particular emphasis on the importance of digital services. With five rounds of talks completed in ten months representing really good progress and with 7 chapters closed so far, things remains firmly on track.”
“And with the news that Secretary of State Lynn Truss and NZ Trade Minister Damien O’Connor have now met and agreed to aim for Agreement in Principle (AIP) in August, it’ll be interesting to see how much progress can be made. It’s exciting and could be a milestone.”
With encouraging progress made on services, mobility for businesses remains a key issue: people want to know how easy it will be to live and work in the UK and vice versa. The Trade negotiators recognise that business visas and the ability of SMES to bid for contracts in the two countries and to travel as part of that is a very important part of the FTA.
“The significant progress so far in this area is a really important aspect of all this,” says Paul, who works closely with NZ companies on their strategies to set up in the UK. “The ability to stay in the country for the duration of the contract – which may be longer than the current visa limit of six months – would be huge if agreed. It’ll be a great way to help smaller businesses to access markets in both countries.
That’s a big point for professional services that currently face combined government and professional fees of anything between £5k and 10K to obtain a sponsor licence to bring people into the UK from NZ so they can live and work in the UK and be sponsored. Removing that cost and compliance burden would be enormously helpful.
The encouraging progress comes in the wake of a recent virtual tour of New Zealand by William Russell, the current Lord Mayor of London. “It is clear that both our economies have an interest in supporting technological innovation, which we all recognise as being vital to our future,” he told a meeting over Zoom recently. “It is great to see from afar the rapid growth of tech and especially fintech in New Zealand – with tech now being a key part of UK-New Zealand trade.”
It is hoped that the agreement could become a template for future FTAs for the UK, in that it represents a business friendly arrangement that aims to increase investment flows and movement between business professionals in both countries.