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NZ snubbed in favour of Swaziland and El Salvador

The likes of Swaziland and El Salvador are now in the queue ahead of New Zealand for a free trade deal with the US.

"It's now clearer than ever the Clark Labour-led Government has achieved an extraordinary diplomatic coup," says National Party Trade spokesman Dr Lockwood Smith.

"The United States and Chile have negotiated a free trade agreement, so too has Singapore, and negotiations are now underway between the US and Australia.

"Of the original P5 Group, only New Zealand is out in the cold," says Dr Smith.

"In 1999 New Zealand was leading the charge to bring together that bold trade agreement, but time ran out for us ahead of the 2000 US Presidential elections.

"Now, four years later, our frosty relationship with the US has been reflected in a series of major trade documents released in Washington in the past three months," says Dr Smith.

"On 3 March, the office of the United States Trade Representative, Robert Zoellick, released the United States trade agenda for 2003.

"The documents confirm the Chile and Singapore free trade agreements and the countries the US is now negotiating with.

"They now include, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, as well as Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland.

"New Zealand sadly - doesn't even get a look in.

"This is the result of what some commentators have described as Helen Clark's skilful diplomacy," Dr Smith says

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