Dunne starts talks with EU

NZ Farmers Weekly, Colin Ley

Talks about talks have already begun concerning New Zealand’s preparation for a free-trade agreement with the European Union.

Primary Industries Ministry director-general Martyn Dunne visited the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA) in Berlin then had meetings in London, Brussels and Dublin to discuss both free trade and Brexit issues.

“The GFFA meeting gave us the opportunity to meet with a range of people from different countries who were interested in talking to us about NZ’s farming industry,” Dunne said.

“In talking to our German counterparts, for example, we discussed the FTA process, with the general thrust being that we are very keen for negotiations to get under way.

“Certainly, agriculture will be one of the areas which will require considerable negotiation.

“I therefore took the opportunity to meet with the German farmers’ union and representatives of the German dairy industry, recognising that the negotiations will obviously take some time.

“At this stage, however, we want to make sure everyone understands our position.

“NZ obviously has a vigorous agricultural industry with dairy being the largest sector, with our position today being very different to the past in that we now trade globally, as do many members of the EU.

“In that context, my aim was to communicate that we are keen to proceed with FTA talks.

“In addition, while we understand that the agricultural communities in the various EU countries will have their concerns, we hope this won’t deny us the opportunity to proceed.

“It is important, therefore, that the perception of NZ agriculture is correctly understood in terms of what we do and how we do it and that people are not misled concerning the scale and scope of what we do.

“We are a small country but we are very progressive in terms of precision farming and in the things we can both offer to others and learn from others.”

The core theme of GFFA focused on the crucial role of water in agriculture, resulting in the release of a final communique that the 83 agriculture ministers and representatives present “reaffirm their will to ensure a sustainable use of water resources”.

Forum members also identified four central challenges: reducing the risks of water scarcity, curbing water pollution, managing surplus water and safeguarding adequate access of agriculture to water.