In a significant move, the European Parliament has ratified a free trade agreement with New Zealand, marking the European Union's first major trade deal endorsement since February 2020. This development, which saw a substantial majority voting in favor, is set to usher in a new era of EU-New Zealand trade relations, potentially boosting trade by an impressive 30%.
Daniel Caspary, a key figure in guiding the agreement through parliament, emphasized the importance of this deal, citing the long hiatus since the last agreement with Vietnam. He also expressed hope for similar progress with other trade agreements currently under consideration.
This agreement, finalized in June 2022, is seen as a strategic move by Europe to forge new alliances in response to changing global trade dynamics, particularly in light of reduced business with Russia and growing caution towards China. Despite the European Commission's success in concluding several deals, the approval process involving EU governments and lawmakers has presented challenges, with concerns over agricultural imports being a notable hurdle.
While deals with Chile and Mexico are pending, and negotiations with the South American bloc Mercosur are ongoing for additional environmental assurances, the EU-Australia talks have encountered some difficulties.
The New Zealand deal is set to eliminate approximately 140 million euros in annual tariffs on a range of EU exports, including clothing, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, cars, wine, and confectionery. In return, the EU will increase its quota for New Zealand beef and raise volumes for lamb, butter, and cheese. Notably, this agreement is the EU's first to incorporate potential sanctions for breaches of environmental or labor standards, marking a significant advancement in trade agreement structures.
BusinessEurope, a leading lobby group, welcomed the parliamentary vote, recognizing its importance in strengthening international trade ties. However, environmental concerns were raised by PowerShift, a German environmental campaign group, which cautioned that the deal could lead to increased trade in climate-damaging goods and a rise in carbon emissions due to long-distance transport.
This ratification represents a pivotal moment for EU trade policy, signaling a readiness to embrace new trade partnerships while balancing economic growth with environmental and labor considerations.