FTA unfinished business for outgoing envoy
By Philip Iglauer
New Zealand Ambassador to Korea Richard Mann wrapped up his three-year posting here with a small farewell reception with colleagues, local staff and friends at the New Zealand Embassy in Seoul, Thursday.
Mann said re-starting free trade negotiations was his top priority as New Zealand’s chief representative in Korea, and it remains unfinished business.
FTA talks started in earnest in 2009 with four rounds concluded in quick succession, but momentum fizzled out the following year. The last round was in 2010.
Mann said he is particularly concerned that, with the Korea-EU and Korea-US free trade deals, New Zealand’s companies could suffer from “trade diversion” in which Korea-New Zealand trade gets diverted to America and Europe.
“We are concerned that without an FTA in place our market could be gradually diminished,” he said in an interview with The Korea Times before the reception Thursday.
Korea is New Zealand’s fifth largest trading partner. So, it has a lot to potentially lose. Bilateral trade is about $2 billion annually.
Mann said he recognized that for Korea, agriculture is a sensitive area.
New Zealand agriculture goods make up just 3 percent of such products imported in Korea.
New Zealand beef is grass fed and, therefore, qualitatively different from what most local cattle ranchers produce, he said.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Seoul and Auckland on March 1, 1962. So, inking an FTA will be the No. 1 goal of New Zealand’s next ambassador to Korea.
Mann and wife Michelle depart Jan. 30 for a three-week vacation and then to New Zealand capital Auckland.
Mann is to be replaced by Patrick Rata, who arrives in early February. Rata is currently at the World Trade Organization in Geneva.
He was in charge of the Japan and Koreas Unit at New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He held postings to the New Zealand High Commission in London and for his country at the United Nations in New York.