There was a focus during last week’s visit by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the military relationship between our two countries.

Strategically, however, it was Mrs. Clinton’s statements on trade that meant the most to New Zealand as a country.

“We are very committed to the Trans Pacific Partnership, and New Zealand again is playing a leading role. We want to expedite the negotiations as much as possible, so we are exploring ways that we can try to drive this agenda,” she said.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a multilateral free trade agreement that aims to integrate the economies of the Asia-Pacific region. The original agreement between New Zealand, Brunei, Chile, and Singapore was signed on June 3, 2005, and came into force on May 28, 2006.

The Asian region is currently driving the world economy. The IMF forecasts that average growth for developing and emerging countries in the Asia will be around 9.4% for 2010 and 8.4% in 2011. This contrasts with IMF forecasts for growth in advanced economies of 2.7% in 2010 and 2.2% in 2011.

The United States has committed to an export-led recovery, similar to New Zealand.  They have set a target of doubling the amount of exports over the next several years.

While out trade advances through bilateral Free Trade Agreements, and proposed regional Free Trade Agreements have shown promising signs, including the United States in the TPP gives both countries trade advantages.

New Zealand’s role in developing trade links in the Asia-Pacific region has been impressive over the last few years, driven largely by Trade Minister Tim Groser and a very committed team at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

For us as a nation, the shift of wealth to Asia gives us an enviable position.  Statistics show that 94% of all arable land in South Asia is already farmed and under massive pressure. China with 24% of the world’s population has only 9% of the world’s arable land.

We are entering the most favourable trading environment we have seen in the last 40 years.  We have what Asian countries want – healthy, safe, high quality agricultural products.  Having the USA come on board to the TPP will not happen overnight, but it is going to be a boon not only to New Zealand, but to the agricultural sector in Southland.