Kremlin officials said on Monday that Russia is working to have a free trade deal with New Zealand by the yearend. The agreement would include Belarus and Kazakhstan, the New Zealand Herald reported.
If the agreement would push through, New Zealand would enjoy access to the Russian market for its agricultural products, including butter and milk manufactured by the country's biggest company, Fonterra, but are currently slapped with high tariffs such as 9 per cent for fresh produce and dairy products and 5.45 per cent for electrical machinery.
It would be the first deal of its kind between Russia and a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
But the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of New Zealand pointed out that outstanding issues between the two governments remain, mainly access for agricultural products to customs union.
In the 12-year period 2000 to 2012, New Zealand's export to Russia jumped 351 per cent to $230.4 million from $51 million. The $230.4 million is broken down into $106 million dairy products, $55 million meat and $20 million fish.
However, the country's exports to Belarus and Kazakhstan are significantly lesser at $635,588 and $1.6 million in 2012, respectively.
A ministry spokesman said, quoted by New Zealand Herald, "While we would welcome the FTA's conclusion this year, our main priority is to secure a high-quality outcome, rather than needing to conclude the deal by any specific deadline."
Besides discussions with Russia, New Zealand is also in talks with India and South Korea for an FTA and also with the Trans Pacific Partnership which is a trade and economic negotiation made up of 12 nations, including the U.S., Japan, Canada and Mexico.