Trade Minister Tim Groser today welcomed the start of negotiations towards an eight-nation free trade deal which includes the United States, taking place in Melbourne, Australia this week.
Mr Groser says the deal, known as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), brings one step closer New Zealand's long-held goal of a free trade deal with the United States.
"This is an historic occasion for New Zealand. For over 30 years, successive governments have worked to gain better access to the US market - today negotiations on the framework for that access become a reality."
Negotiations between the eight-nations focus on extending an existing free trade agreement between New Zealand, Singapore, Chile and Brunei to include the United States, Vietnam, Peru and Australia.
"As well as access to the US market, the eight-nation TPP aims to pave the way for a potentially much bigger prize - a free trade area of the entire Asia-Pacific region.
"I am hopeful the TPP can evolve into a "new generation" trade deal - one that achieves greater economic integration in our region while maintaining our right to regulate important public services.
"This will be a complicated agreement but I am hopeful the deal will be concluded within two years," Mr Groser said.
The second round of talks is currently scheduled to take place in June 2010. Officials expect to have further consultation with stakeholders in the lead up to this round.