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Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton to visit Europe

Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton leaves New Zealand on Sunday for a three-week trip to Europe.

Mr Sutton is to attend Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development ministerial council meeting in Paris, and will host an informal meeting of World Trade Organisation trade ministers afterwards.

"These are important meetings, especially in the build-up to the World Trade Organisation ministerial meeting in Mexico in September. There are some difficult issues to be negotiated as part of the Doha Development Round, and the more opportunities we have to work through those, the better."

Mr Sutton said the Doha Development Round was New Zealand's highest trade negotiations priority.

"Comprehensive multilateral negotiations hold out the best chance for market access gains."

He will then visit Hungary, the Czech Republic, Germany, and Poland as part of a trade mission.

With their imminent entry into the European Union, central and eastern European countries are increasing in political, economic and strategic importance to New Zealand. Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic are the most populous and influential central European countries. Substantial development has taken place in these countries over the past decade and levels of economic growth are expected to increase after EU accession in May 2004.

Mr Sutton said these markets had considerable untapped potential for New Zealand.

"In addition, they are set to become influential voices within the EU on policy matters which will have a direct bearing on our trade and economic interests. It is important that they understand the New Zealand perspective on key issues such as CAP reform, subsidies to agriculture and the importance of securing an ambitious outcome to the Doha Round."

He said that as well as hosting meetings to promote New Zealand trade opportunities and potential, he would meet with counterparts in Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Germany.

Mr Sutton returns to New Zealand on May 16.

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