The negotiating mandate is a major step forward after the EU and New Zealand first announced their intention to negotiate an FTA in late 2015.
European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said the talks with New Zealand and Australia would follow successful agreements with Canada, Japan, and other countries “committed to open and rules-based global trade”.
Juncker said the negotiations would take place “in the greatest transparency”, saying open trade had to go hand in hand with open and inclusive policy making.
EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said the EU was already close with Australia and New Zealand in terms of shared values and an open outlook.
“Together, we will now negotiate win-win trade deals that create new opportunities for our businesses, as well as safeguard high standards in key areas such as sustainable development…
“Starting these talks between like-minded partners sends a strong signal at a time where many are taking the easy road of protectionism.”
The EU is currently New Zealand’s third-largest trading partner, with two-way trade excluding the UK (which will soon leave the union) worth about $16 billion a year.