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EAS Concludes In Vietnam

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
John Key
John Key

By Kate Chapman of NZPA

Hanoi, Vietnam, Oct 31 NZPA - Regional leaders at the East Asia Summit want a free trade agreement but New Zealand won't settle for anything that excludes our agriculture sector, Prime Minister John Key says.

Mr Key was in Vietnam for the summit and said most of the leaders involved had expressed their desire for a trade agreement between Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, China and Japan.

Such agreements took time to negotiate but it was a positive sign that most of those involved wanted to see it progressed, he said.

"It took three-and-a-half years to negotiate an FTA with China but the end product has proven that it means more jobs, more opportunities and greater economic growth in New Zealand."

South Korea, Japan and India presented the biggest challenges during FTA negotiations, Mr Key said.

However, even those countries had expressed a willingness to progress an agreement.

"As Manmohan Singh said to me they have 1.2 billion people to feed so there's something in it for both parties if we can complete a deal.

"We now sell to China in seven hours what we used to sell in 1972."

Mr Key said New Zealand would only sign comprehensive trade agreements because otherwise the agriculture sector would be left out.

With Russia and the United States joining the East Asia Summit (EAS), Mr Key said any agreement would essentially mean New Zealand had an FTA with the US.

Their presence at the EAS proved how important Asia was for economic growth and the leaders had been excited by their presence, Mr Key said.

"We can expect to see President Obama in Asia both for Apec and the East Asia Summit on an ongoing basis.

"From US's point of view where they need to create a lot of jobs and get people back to work, one of the ways to do that is have a stronger relationship with Asia."

Mr Key said the US also wanted to ensure China did not become to influential in the region.

He said he had a chat with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton again today and both were looking forward to her visit to Wellington and Christchurch next week.

They would discuss the Trans Pacific Partnership FTA ahead of Mr Key's trip to Apec in Japan and would also talk about the situation in Afghanistan.

"She's almost the most powerful foreign minister, if you like, in the world and so getting her take on how things are going in the Middle East and North Korea and Iraq is going to be fascinating from our perspective."

The EAS summit began for real today with the leaders filing into the meeting room at the National Convention Centre in Hanoi.

They sat in brown leather armchairs, Mr Key was sandwiched between Myanmar and South Korea, with an advisor seated behind them to provide immediate advice.

Tensions have been running high between many of those present -- China and Japan have had a flare up over contested islands in the South China Sea, Myanmar received flack for the run-up to its elections and the devaluation of currencies by several countries has sparked fears of a currency war.

Mr Key was confident the forum was the place to deal with such issues.

He said while there were obviously issues the leaders involved seemed to be trying to smooth things out.

As well as the formal summit meetings a number of bi-laterals were being held between leaders.

Mr Key met with his Vietnamese, Filipino, Japanese and Thai counterparts today.

Chatting with officials while waiting for his meeting with Filipino President Benigno Aquino to begin Mr Key joked it was largely Australian wine being served at the EAS. He said he would have to have a word about getting some good New Zealand stuff.

One of the Filipino officials said there was a lot of New Zealand meat imported to the Philippines.

"Good," Mr Key said. "Keep it up."

New Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan told Mr Key he hoped ex-All Black John Kirwan would be able to achieve great things as coach of the Japanese rugby team.

Mr Key congratulated him on his election and said the two countries had a good relationship.

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