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New Zealand offers trade deal experts

New Zealand has offered its top trade negotiators to the UK

Published: 30th June 2016 08:42 AM  |   Last Updated: 30th June 2016 08:44 AM   |  A+A-

LONDON: New Zealand has offered its top trade negotiators to the UK, relieving the Civil Service as it prepares for the strain of seeking new deals with countries across the globe.

The Daily Telegraph understands that the Commonwealth country has made an offer to lend staff to the UK, in a diplomatic cable sent to the Civil Service, which has few trade negotiators of its own.

Wellington's olive branch came alongside an offer to discuss a trade agreement with the UK, which would help Britain get out of the starting blocks and begin replacing the trade access lost due to the Brexit vote.

Experts say that drafting negotiators will be crucial for forging new agreements between the UK and Brussels, as well as with more than 50 other markets with which EU members currently enjoy trade agreements.

Lord Price, the minister for trade and investment, has said that the Government has around 40 trade negotiators, compared with 550 employed by the EU. Whitehall has outsourced trade powers to Brussels for 43 years, meaning that the number of negotiators employed by government has dwindled.

These experts require years of experience to become proficient, time that the UK would not have if formal notification of the country's intention to leave the EU were issued soon.

Allie Renison, head of trade policy at the Institute of Directors, said the Civil Service would need to "massively scale up" in order to negotiate new trade deals. Ms Renison said that drafting in help from New Zealand could help, although there remained a risk that negotiators would lack familiarity with the UK's regulatory system.

Donald Trump, the property mogul running for the US presidency, has said seconding people from business to run trade negotiations would result in better deals. However, Ms Renison pointed out, modern trade deals are written in "very, very technical language, that would not make sense to any business person".

Sajid Javid, the Business Secretary, said on Tuesday that Whitehall would increase the number of negotiators it had available over time. He said: "That process has already begun, and I'm very confident that we can get the right resources in place so we can take advantage of those opportunities that have been created."

New Zealand itself has been successful in striking deals with partners around the world. The country enjoys eight free-trade agreements, including deals with China and Australia. It has also concluded talks with the US, Canada and much of the Gulf, although these agreements are not yet in force.

John Key, New Zealand's prime minister, has said the country will work with Australia in arranging new ties with the UK. "Where it makes sense we [New Zealand and Australia] will co-operate together," he said.

Mr Key's Australian counterpart, Malcolm Turnbull, said "opportunities and challenges" arose from the UK's decision to split with the EU. He said: "There are some big issues in terms of the access of Australians and New Zealanders to Europe and indeed to the UK."

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