Russia is willing to restart free trade talks with New Zealand that were halted after the annexation of the Crimean peninsula, but Trade Minister Todd McClay says it is too soon to resume negotiations with the world’s 12th-biggest economy.

Last week Prime Minister Bill English released New Zealand’s refreshed trade strategy, which seeks to have 90 per cent of goods exports covered by a free trade agreement within 13 years, and cited potentially concluding free trade talks with Russia and its Customs Union partners among initiatives to meet that target.

In 2014, New Zealand suspended free trade negotiations with Russia and its customs union partners Belarus and Kazakhstan over the conflict in the Crimean peninsula, having almost finalised a free trade agreement after four years of talks. Former Prime Minister John Key last year told Russian president Vladimir Putin at the Apec meeting in Lima, Peru that New Zealand was willing to resume trade talks, but only on a timetable allowed by European nations’ attitude to the Ukraine conflict.

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