New Zealand’s forest and wood processing industries have welcomed news of a closer economic partnership with Thailand which they believe will strengthen South-east Asia market access.

New Zealand Forest Industries Council (NZFIC) chief executive Stephen Jacobi said the announcement brought the end goal in sight – a comprehensive free-trade agreement with the member countries of the Association of South-east Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The NZFIC strongly supports the government’s efforts to remove tariff and non -tariff barriers to international trade. Mr Jacobi said tariff elimination supported the government’s objective of retaining and expanding processing and manufacturing for export in New Zealand.

“In the wood sector, New Zealand jobs depend on maximising free trade. We can’t expand our local processing and manufacturing industries without international markets that are open to our products,” he said.

Escalating tariffs in many Asian countries impact on New Zealand exports and prevent adding value in New Zealand and encourage trade in lower value commodities.

Mr Jacobi said: “As a principle NZFIC supports the liberalisation of all international markets, and we are looking forward to seeing that come to an end.”