Russia, New Zealand begin free trade talks

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Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and New Zealand Prime Minister John Key on Saturday kicked off negotiations on a free trade agreement as the world's top dairy exporter seeks new markets.

"For both countries this is a very good opportunity," Key told Medvedev on the sidelines of a summit of 21 nations in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation grouping in the Japanese port city of Yokohama.

Medvedev said that "this initiative will create a new trade regime between our countries."

Russian and New Zealand trade ministers met in Wellington earlier this year to kickstart the talks as New Zealand, the world's largest exporter of dairy products, seeks access to a new market for its products.

A deal could also see New Zealand secure access to the markets of two post-Soviet Russian neighbors, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

Russia is building a joint customs bloc with the two countries and any deal with New Zealand will foresee a free trade zone between Wellington and the customs bloc.

Russia is among the world's largest importers of meat and dairy products.

APEC economies account for more than half of world gross domestic product and around 44 percent of world trade, according to the organisation.

© 2010 AFP

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