The European Commission concluded negotiations on a free trade deal with New Zealand on Thursday (30 June), that would slash much of the remaining tariffs between the two trading partners while keeping certain protections for European beef and sheep farmers and including unprecedented sustainability provisions.
After having focused on making the EU trade agenda more assertive in the past months and years, this is the first new free trade agreement (FTA) of the von der Leyen Commission. It could also be the first of a couple of FTAs that the Commission is trying to bring over the finishing line in the coming months.
“This trade agreement brings major opportunities for our companies, our farmers and our consumers, on both sides,” Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said. With a hint at Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, von der Leyen stressed the fact that it was a deal between democracies.
Enforceable sustainability provisions
On a visit to Brussels, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stressed that the EU and New Zealand shared the same values and showed content that, in her opinion, the trade agreement enshrined some of the values that New Zealand and the EU shared.
The FTA is the first deal to include the new EU approach towards trade and sustainable development that was only presented by the Commission last week.
For example, the FTA includes sanctionable commitments to respect the Paris Climate Agreement. Moreover, the trade agreement has binding provisions on labour standards and a chapter on trade and gender equality.
Executive Vice-President of the Commission Valdis Dombrovskis said: “Simply put, these are the most ambitious sustainability provisions put in any trade agreement ever.”
“If either side fails to meet its obligations, they are enforceable through sanctions,” he said while adding that the sanctions would only be used as a last resort. source euractiv