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NZ Trade Minister announces new travel

·2-min read

New Zealand's trade minister has announced a whistlestop fortnight-long tour of Europe and the United States.

Damien O'Connor will head overseas on Thursday, heading to Washington DC before visiting Sweden, France, Belgium, Ireland and Italy.

The United Kingdom is a surprise omission from the itinerary given long-running free trade talks between New Zealand and its colonial power.

Instead, Mr O'Connor will focus on the European Union, which New Zealand is also hoping to ink a deal with.

"Securing a high-quality and comprehensive free trade agreement with the EU represents a huge opportunity for New Zealand exporters, opening up a market with a population of close to half a billion people," Mr O'Connor said.

While in the states, Mr O'Connor will conduct "a series of engagements", including a meeting with US Trade Representative Katherine Tai.

Crossing the Atlantic, the West Coast-Tasman MP will attend the OECD ministerial council meeting on October 5-6 in Paris, and the G20 Trade Ministers' Meeting in Sorrento on October 12, with New Zealand invited as a guest nation.

Representatives of Jacinda Ardern's government have been grounded during the pandemic.

Ministers are not exempt from tough border rules that ask all overseas Kiwis to complete a 14-day spell in a quarantine hotel on arrival.

With huge competition from everyday Kiwis for those quarantine hotel places, Ms Ardern and her ministers have chosen not to head abroad.

Only Mr O'Connor has travelled overseas on an official capacity since March last year; this is his second trip.

Climate Change Minister James Shaw will become the second minister to head abroad this year when he travels to Glasgow for the COP26 meeting in November.

Ms Ardern was due to lead a business delegation to Australia in July, only to cancel the trip at the last minute due to Sydney's COVID-19 outbreak.

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