WELLINGTON, March 16 (Xinhua) -- New Zealand is expected to be one of the first countries to start talks over a trade agreement with the Pacific Alliance of four Latin American nations, Trade Minister Todd McClay said Thursday.
McClay met formally with ministers of the Pacific Alliance - a bloc comprising Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru - in Chile Wednesday to pitch a trade deal between New Zealand and the alliance.
He welcomed the announcement by Pacific Alliance ministers that they would look to progressively advance their trade agenda and offer associate membership of the alliance as a precursor to trade negotiations with selected countries.
"I have welcomed the alliance announcement as a significant development, and expect New Zealand to be one of the first countries to start negotiations with the trading bloc," McClay said in a statement from his office.
"The prospect of a high quality and comprehensive trade deal for New Zealand with the Pacific Alliance has now increased significantly," he said.
"We have been in dialogue with the Pacific Alliance for around two years and I am delighted that we can now see our way clear to taking a next step with these countries."
The Pacific Alliance has 49 observer countries, a combined population of 206 million and GDP of 3,572 billion U.S. dollars.
McClay also attended a meeting of representatives of the 11 remaining Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) nations, which was held on the margins of the High Level Dialogue on Integration Initiatives in the Asia-Pacific at Vina del Mar, Chile.
The meeting resulted in a joint statement in which the 11 nations "reiterated their firm commitment to collaborate in keeping markets open and to the free flow of goods, services and investment advancing regional economic integration and strengthening the rules-based international trading system noting our concern with protectionism in many parts of the world."
The representatives from Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Malaysia, Peru, and Singapore and Vietnam canvassed views on a way forward that would advance economic integration in the Asia-Pacific.
Senior trade officials would meet and consult in preparation for the ministers to meet again in the margins of the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) meeting of Ministers Responsible for Trade in Hanoi on May 20 and 21.
The TPP appeared to have floundered after U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew his nation from the deal shortly after he took office.
New Zealand's opposition Green Party said it was disappointing that McClay was participating in talks "to try to resuscitate the dead-and-buried" TPP.
The economic gains from the TPP were only ever going to be small for New Zealand, and the deal was "always more about extending the rights of multinational corporations than extending market access opportunities," Green Party trade spokesperson Barry Coates said in a statement.
"New Zealand's priority should be to support the World Trade Organization, at a time when multilateralism is under attack," said Coates.