Damien O'Connor to travel to Europe and Middle East to advance trade objectives

  • Hon Damien O'Connor

New Zealand's trade agenda for 2022 steps up as Trade and Export Growth and Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor announces he will depart for Europe and the Middle East this Sunday 27 February.

He has meetings in the United Kingdom, Belgium, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to advance New Zealand's trade and economic interests with key partners.

"New Zealand's goods and services are in demand around the world and our COVID-19 economic recovery will be underpinned by improving our substantial export market access," Damien O'Connor said.

"I will travel to the UK and meet with Secretary of State for International Trade Anne-Marie Trevelyan, to progress the bilateral trade relationship, including to complete the final steps of our FTA negotiations.

"In Europe, I will meet with European Union counterparts to advance our FTA talks in Brussels. That will be followed by a visit to the World Trade Organization in Geneva.

"I will be attending Expo 2020 in Dubai, which provides the opportunity to also engage with the Gulf Cooperation Council when in the Middle East.

"Our trade agenda has very good momentum. We are now reconnecting with a post-COVID world and unlocking opportunities that will drive our economic recovery from the pandemic."


Damien O'Connor will travel to the UK to meet with Secretary for International Trade, Anne-Marie Trevelyan.

In Europe, Minister O'Connor will travel to Belgium and Switzerland to progress towards conclusion of negotiations on the European Union-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (EU-NZ FTA) and to promote New Zealand's interests at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Following Damien O'Connor's visit to Belgium in October 2021, subsequent meetings have been scheduled in Brussels with Valdis Dombrovskis, the European Commission's Executive Vice-President and Trade Commissioner, and Janusz Wojciechowski, the EU Commissioner for Agriculture. The Minister will also meet with Members of the European Parliament.

"A high quality and comprehensive FTA with the European Union, our fourth largest trading partner, will open up even more opportunities for our goods and services exporters in a market of close to 450 million consumers," Damien O'Connor said.

"In particular it would benefit our primary sector, the backbone of our economy, as well as those engaged in transport and professional services.

"The EU is a close friend and reliable partner for New Zealand. The lack of an FTA remains a noticeable gap in our otherwise excellent relationship. During this visit I will be underlining New Zealand's expectations, including with respect to goods market access, and our strong commitment to work with the EU to conclude the negotiations as soon as possible."

In addition to the FTA meetings, Damien O'Connor will also undertake key meetings in Geneva to promote New Zealand's interests at the WTO.

"The outbreak of the Omicron variant cut short my travel to Europe late last year and I was not able to visit the WTO. It remains important that we take the opportunity to build momentum following the postponement of the WTO's 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) including in terms of the WTO's pandemic response, fisheries subsidies, agriculture and wider WTO reform," Damien O'Connor said.

Middle East

Following his trip to Europe, Minister O'Connor will travel to Saudi Arabia, one of our fastest growing export markets. He will meet with the Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council, based in Riyadh. He will also lead New Zealand's delegation at the 8th Saudi-NZ Joint Ministerial Commission and meet with his Saudi Ministerial counterparts.

The Minister will then travel to the United Arab Emirates to lead the New Zealand delegation at the 8th UAE-NZ Joint Economic Committee, meet with his Emirati Ministerial counterparts and support New Zealand's participation at Expo 2020 Dubai.

"I am very much looking forward to supporting New Zealand's presence at Expo 2020 Dubai, which ends on 31 March," Damien O'Connor said.

"New Zealand's participation at Expo is a significant initiative to promote our trade, economic, business and G2G connections with the UAE and Gulf region. Despite COVID-19 travel restrictions, the New Zealand pavilion at the Expo has attracted over 800,000 visitors.

"The Gulf represents New Zealand's seventh-largest export market. Building on our strong economic and trading relationship with the region is important to New Zealand's economic recovery and our trade diversification goals" Damien O'Connor said.

Damien O'Connor and his travelling delegation of two have been fully vaccinated and will comply with any host government COVID-19 restrictions and testing requirements. Upon return to New Zealand in mid-March, Damien O'Connor and the delegation will complete the required self-isolation period.

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