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New Zealand PM tours East Asia

May 13,2008
WELLINGTON — New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark left for Japan and Korea yesterday to build on the country’s trade momentum with the region following the signing of a free trade agreement with China.
Government officials told AFP there was little prospect of imminent progress on a free trade agreement with Japan, but the signs were more favorable with Korea.
New Zealand became the first developed country to sign a free trade agreement with China last month.
Clark will arrive in Tokyo Tuesday and is due to meet Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda the following day for talks. She is not expected to push hard for a bilateral free trade agreement but wants to encourage deeper economic links with the world’s second largest economy.
Clark will meet Korean President Lee Myung-bak, who took office in February, in Seoul Friday for talks.
A joint feasibility study late last year found a free trade agreement would have benefits for both New Zealand and its sixth largest export market.
Officials said Korea was unlikely to be willing to enter talks for a trade deal immediately because Seoul’s main focus is on ratification of an FTA with the United States by the legislatures of both countries.
But New Zealand is hoping there will at least be a positive expression of interest from both sides in pursuing a trade deal. AFP



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